By Prashant Sood and Sidhartha Dutta
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi may be elevated as party chief on completion of the organisational election process in October and he will be the opposition's face in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia has said.
Scindia, 46, who is party's chief whip in the Lok Sabha, also said that the time for introspection is over and the party has to act soon on a gameplan to improve its prospects in the 2019 elections.
He claimed that the Narendra Modi government will face defeat in the next elections in the same way as the first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had lost power in 2004 despite its "India Shining" slogan.
"Rahul Gandhi is leading the party and he will be leading the party," Scindia told IANS in an interview when asked who will be the party's face in the next general elections.
To a question if Gandhi will also be the face of the larger opposition, Scindia said: "I certainly think so. I think the opposition is united in their support for Rahul Gandhi and he will lead the opposition onslaught."
"Absolutely" was his response when asked if Rahul Gandhi should be elevated as the party chief. Asked if the elevation will happen at the completion of party's organisational elections in October, Scindia said: "I think so. Yes, yes!"
There has been recurrent speculation about Rahul Gandhi's elevation, with many leaders in the past having suggested that he should take over from his mother Sonia Gandhi, who is the longest-serving chief of the party.
Scindia, a member of Parliament from Guna, alleged that the Modi government is high on speeches and low on performance.
"Abraham Lincoln had said, 'You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time'. You can't keep talking about propaganda if the ground is slipping underneath your feet. This is the same as the India Shining campaign that you saw in 2003-2004," Scindia said.
However, he added that the Congress has to get its act together.
"I think it is important that we also get our act together and put our best foot forward. In all the state elections, there has to be a clear strategy as well as for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections."
With Punjab being the only major state won by the Congress since its debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Scinidia said every party goes through crests and troughs, and recalled that the Congress had led alliance governments in 2004 and 2009.
"But after that, for multiple reasons, we were not able to hold on to the trust of people and, therefore, we need to start acting on a new game plan. I think the time for introspection and the time for understanding the reasons is over now. We are three years down from the 2014 election and we need to start acting on that gameplan," Scindia said.
"I am confident that Rahulji will start acting on that gameplan very soon," he added.
To a question whether the party is promoting young leadership, Scindia, who is into his fourth term as MP, said meritocracy and capability are important and not considerations of age.
"There is always more that can be done and I don't think it is necessarily about being young or old. I think it has got to do with capability. You may be a young person and you may be capable, or you may be very incapable and you may be a very old person.
"So you have to promote meritocracy...you have to promote capability and not based on whether someone is young or old or medium-aged," he said.
Asked if the Congress attack on the government was Modi-centric and if it had yielded electoral dividends, Scindia said the party has been exposing the failures of the government.
"Congress party has always believed in talking about its priorities, its vision, its values and what it has done in the 10 years of government and what it intends to do in the future.
"That being said, we also have to play our role of a responsible opposition and that is to make sure that we keep the current government on its toes and keep it alert."
He contended there were inadequacies across the spectrum -- foreign policy, internal security, agriculture, employment, defence -- and the party would continue to highlight those.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at email@example.com and Sidhartha Dutta at Sidhartha.firstname.lastname@example.org)