How will Rahul Gandhi's speaking his mind out help the party at this juncture? If his speech only focuses on convincing his supporters that it will be good for the party if he is not made the prime ministerial candidate, then it is a futile exercise. But if he speaks as the future leader of the party and conveys his vision for the Congress and the nation for the next 10 years, he will do a better job.
The pre-2014 poll situation looks very tricky for the Congress although it is not the first time that the party has seen itself in such a corner. The party had witnessed serious anti-incumbency sentiments putting its poll prospects in jeopardy in 1967, 1977, 1989 and now in 2014 and each time a threatening realignment of politics has made the Congress's task to of returning all the more difficult.
The only ray of hope is that it ultimately required a Gandhi to help the party regain the lost ground (with the help of Indira Gandhi in 1971 and 1977 and with Sonia Gandhi's help in 2004). Can Rahul Gandhi repeat the feat at least by 2019? That is the million-dollar question at the moment.
Another setback to the Congress's organisation has been the untimely deaths of several influential leaders. Many of their successors have not been equally powerful and that has not helped the party. In Andhra Pradesh, even not backing a local political dynasty has proved counter-productive. In other parts of the country, continuing with the unsuccessful successors of local dynasties have hit the party's prospects for long-term growth in terms of leadership. Can Rahul Gandhi address that issue?
A third challenge will be Manmohan Singh's economic legacy in this era of economic downturn. Will Rahul Gandhi work on the neo-liberal economic path like Manmohan Singh or will stick to welfare economics like his mother? The UPA had found a middle-way between the two ways and yet could not end it on a right note. The future Congress leadership will also not find it easy post-2014. If the Congress sits in the Opposition in 2014 and whichever party that comes to power follows the same-old model of economic liberalism which is predicted, the Congress will have little space to maneuver itself.
Then there is Narendra Modi, the Aam Aadmi Party, a shrinking urban base and many more issues to deal with. Rahul Gandhi, the man whom the outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh attached with "outstanding credentials" two weeks ago, has just evaded an immediate challenge of becoming the PM candidate. But can he overcome the long-term challenges?