Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary and often described as a prime minister-in-waiting, on Sunday chose not to join the government despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s public invitation to him to do so several times. He is to take on a more prominent role in the party, say party sources.

Rahul Gandhi, who was present during the oath-taking ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, had met President Pranab Mukherjee last week, fuelling speculation he may finally join the government with the general elections about a year and a half away.

He Saturday met his mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and is believed to have played an important role in the finalising the list of ministers, especially in the elevation of some younger ministers like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot. Sonia Gandhi had earlier said it was entirely up to Mr. Rahul to decide whether he wanted to join the government.

“It is the prerogative of the prime minister to induct anybody...Rahul Gandhi is more interested in the organisation,” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi told IANS Sunday.

There is speculation that the Congress general secretary may take on a more prominent role in the organisation — probably that of vice president or secretary general.

“Rahul’s focus on the party will help it in the long run,” said Mr. Alvi.

The latest invitation from the prime minister to Mr. Rahul to join his government came last month.

On his way back from Tehran from a NAM meet in September, Manmohan Singh said: “I have always favoured that Rahul play a more active role in government. I have invited him to be a member of the cabinet on several occasions. I sincerely hope that this time he will consider my request seriously.”

Mr. Rahul, 42, a Lok Sabha MP from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, is expected to lead the party in the next general elections, scheduled in 2014 though Sonia Gandhi will continue to head the party.

With the Gujarat and Himachal elections due over the next two months and nine more state polls in 2013, Mr. Rahul is expected to play a major role in strengthening the party.

Though Mr. Rahul led the Congress’ high pitched campaign in Uttar Pradesh polls in March this year, it did not result in any significant gain with the party getting just 28 seats in the 403-member house, up by only six seats from 22 in 2007.

Mr. Rahul was also behind the Congress’ go alone policy in the crucial state and did not approve a tie up with the Samajwadi Party, which swept the elections. However, the party’s vote share did go up marginally.

He had also campaigned extensively in Bihar for the 2010 assembly polls, where the party fared miserably getting just four seats.

“He has never hankered for a position in the government and wants to work for the government,” said a Congress leader.

It may be mentioned that with the exception of former prime minister Indira Gandhi, no other member of the Gandhi family has ever worked under anyone in the government.

Indira Gandhi was information and broadcasting minister under former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964.

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