His promise of greater openness in the organisation lifts drooping spirits

Rahul Gandhi, around whom the Congress’s electoral battle will be centred, will be projected as “an agent of change and transformative politics,” senior party sources told The Hindu, ahead of release of the first phase of the multimedia publicity campaign for Elections 2014.

Simultaneously, these sources added, there will be an emphasis on “governance with continuity,” with the achievements of the UPA’s two terms in power showcased to underline the “growth with equity” theme.

A day after the young vice-president was officially anointed as head of the party’s election campaign at a day-long AICC session, Mr. Gandhi hit the ground running, meeting Congress delegates, Statewise, through the day to hear what they had to say about the elections. As they milled around the AICC headquarters, awaiting their turn, random conversations with those waiting indicated that while they were all aware of the tough challenges ahead, Mr. Gandhi’s speech on Friday — with a promise of greater openness in the organisation — lifted drooping spirits.

Mr. Gandhi’s speech, a senior functionary told The Hindu, also served to kick off the election campaign: the party’s parliamentary managers have been told to get started on mobilising support not just for the pending anti-graft laws but also the Women’s Reservation Bill. Indeed, to project Mr. Gandhi as an anti-corruption crusader, posters that read Rahulji ke now hathiyar, door karenge bhrastachar (Rahul’s nine weapons, to fight corruption) will soon be seen.

The modalities of how to initiate “primaries” in 15 Lok Sabha constituencies across the country to choose candidates had already begun, a senior functionary said, even before Mr. Gandhi announced it in his speech at the AICC session: a group of persons has already been tasked with this job. If this pilot project succeeds, then it can be expanded, the functionary added.

Mr. Gandhi will travel extensively around the country: the success of his speech on Friday has encouraged the leadership, party sources said, to include more speaking engagements for him. Following his pre-manifesto consultations in Delhi (on SCs, STs and minorities) and in Bangalore (on youth) he is headed on January 20 for one that will focus on women’s issues. In his speech, he had spoken of the need to recruit more women to the party, so that half the positions in the party could be given to them — he had also spoken of making one more effort to get the Women’s Reservation Bill through.

The message of a generational shift was carried one step more on Saturday when the high-power Congress Election Coordination Committee headed by Mr. Gandhi was expanded to include two young leaders — MoS for power Jyotiraditya Scindia and Haryana Minister and former Youth Congress chief Randip Surjewala. The third person who joined the committee is Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, an old organisation hand, who has in the past been general secretary of several States, including Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

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