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'It is for Rahul to decide'

NEW DELHI NOV. 9. Congress circles here expressed surprise today at reports of the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi's son, Rahul Gandhi, being drafted into the Seva Dal. The Seva Dal chairman, Janardhan Dwivedi, told The Hindu that he had no knowledge of any move to induct Mr. Gandhi into the organisation on November 14.

(Replying to a question on the issue at her press conference in Mt. Abu, Rajasthan, today, Ms. Gandhi said, "They (Rahul and Priyanka) are grown-up man and woman. They have been brought up to take their own decisions." Stating that it was not correct to say that she has "finally decided to do this or that" in relation to her children, she said, "We are all individuals who take our own decisions. They are free to join politics if they wish to or not it they do not wish to.")

Though the party leadership may appear to rule out the immediate possibility of Mr. Gandhi joining the party, the move cannot be brushed aside. During the final session of the Seva Dal national camp in Ghatprabha, Karnataka, on August 26 last, Mr. Dwivedi, also CWC member, had submitted a resolution urging Ms. Gandhi to appoint her son as chairman of the organisation.

Ms. Gandhi said at the time that it was not for her to decide. "This is a decision that I cannot take, it is for them (her children) to decide."

Congressmen have been urging Ms. Gandhi to induct her children into the organisation. Some years ago, the Youth Congress passed a resolution admitting Priyanka Gandhi into the party, without even consulting her. The demand resurfaced again on the eve of the last Lok Sabha elections. Her high-voltage campaigning in Bellary and Amethi led to demands that she take up a position in the party and assist her mother.

Though Rahul Gandhi (31), the elder of the two, has accompanied Ms. Gandhi on her campaign tours, he has remained in the background. In the last couple of years he has been abroad, mainly in London, and a year ago he moved back to India. With Priyanka preoccupied with family responsibilities for now, the focus appears to have shifted to Mr. Gandhi.

Anil Shastri, senior Congress leader and member of the media cell, said though the decision would have to be made by the children, "it is only natural that they follow in the footsteps of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi and join politics".

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