It is interesting to note that this is the second time in 10 years that Sonia Gandhi has taken a call on the party's prime minister and on both occasions, she has succeeded in detaching the Gandhis from the party's political fortunes, whether good or bad (Read: What made Sonia say no to Rahul's anointment).
Second time Sonia Gandhi formally delinks Congress power-centre from responsibility
In 2004, she answered her inner call to turn down an opportunity to become the PM after the party did good in the poll that year and appointed a non-Gandhi for the top post. This time, when the chips are down, she does the same to delink the powerhouse from the party. This is again a master strategy from the Congress chief. Through her veto, she has not only left the BJP eagerly waiting for a Modi vs Rahul duel ending in favour of the former, she has also given a lifeline to Rahul Gandhi's political career.
The Congress's move is a well thought-out one, but is it a bit too late?
But the master strategy has materialised a little too late. For general supporters of the party, the decision not to project Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate just four months prior to the polls could be a big shocker. For there was a lot of hype and speculation over the last few years over 'Rahul's big role' in the party.
A move little too late?
His appointment as the Congress vice-president a year ago was a big boost to the morale of the Congress workers and the general expectation was his further promotion. But now, with his big role being limited to that of the poll campaign chief, there is bound to be a dissatisfaction among the foot soldiers of the party who was expecting Rahul to emerge as an answer to Modi.
Long-term benefit for Rahul Gandhi
The episode on Rahul Gandhi showed that the power-centre of the Congress preferred a long-term vision and not get influenced by the immediate expectation of the general members. The refusal to project Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate is an indirect admission of the fact that the Congress is not going to see a favourable result in the upcoming general polls.
The UPA government has been buried under an immense weight of anti-incumbency and there is practically no purpose in naming Rahul Gandhi as the leader of a difficult if not impossible battle. Instead, it would be wise for the party to prepare for the post-Lok Sabha poll scenario under Rahul Gandhi's leadership. Sonia Gandhi, too, had played a similar role after the Congress faced a serious electoral and organisational crisis in the late-1990s.
Better for Rahul to be in Oppn as a fresh leader
The year will also see key elections in states like Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra where the Congress would be facing big challenges. For Rahul Gandhi, each one of the states will be fresh problems to resolve and it is much better if he begins his actual political career on a fresh note and not as a failed leader on the national stage. Afterall, he hasn't been able to produce much magic for the party since the revival in UP in 2009.
Sonia Gandhi has perhaps done her final bit for her son. From here, Rahul 'the man' Gandhi's journey begins.