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Jan 19, 2013 at 08:56am IST

2014 elections: Congress jittery, trying to avoid Rahul-Modi face-off

New Delhi: On Day One of the Congress's Chintan Shivir in Jaipur on Friday, Rahul Gandhi occupied the centrestage as a majority of the Congressmen said he should be named as the Prime Ministerial candidate. Seniors within the party, however, were quick to play it down.

Union Minister Kapil Sibal said that the party was yet to decide on the PM candidate, but added, "The Congress needs to assert itself ideologically. We will speak of Rahul Gandhi's role when we're ready. When party and Rahul are ready, we will let you know."

There's a reason for this seeming indecisiveness. With Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi set to play a key role in the 2014 polls, the Congress is worried about a possible Rahul versus Modi faceoff.

A better communicator, Modi, as a shrewd politician scores over Rahul, and the latter hasn't done well as a strategist when he has been in charge, as in Uttar Pradesh elections, where many found his campaigning confusing, at times aggressive, at times hinting at a post-poll alliance with the Samajwadi Party.

In Bihar, Rahul's 'Ekala Chalo Re' proved a disaster, so much so that it's clear now that Congress will not adopt Rahul's mantra. Party leader Jairam Ramesh remarked on Friday, "The Congress has structural issues. I don't see it coming to power on its own soon."

The Congress says Rahul needs no formal appointment as number two. But the fact that he has often been absent in Congress's worst crisis moment like the gangrape protests shows that the Congress has gone overboard in protecting Rahul Gandhi.

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