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Nov 16, 2012 at 10:25pm IST

Will Rahul be an asset or a liability for the Congress in the run-up to 2014?

New Delhi: Kicking off its preparations for the big battle of 2014, the Congress on Thursday announced that Rahul Gandhi would be the face of the party in the Lok Sabha elections. While the Opposition mocked the decision by saying "there is no spark in Rahul Gandhi" and hopefully he won't lead the Congress to another electoral rout, a section of the Congress is also apprehensive if the Rahul magic will work for the party or not.

Under Rahul's leadership, the Congress fared very badly in the 2010 Bihar and 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. The Gandhi scion is also criticised for not making his stand clear on major issues like corruption or the economy before the country.

A look at Rahul Gandhi's report card so far shows that he has seldom spoken in Parliament and is not able take poll debacles in his stride. While negative feedback during the 2010 Bihar polls forced him to withdraw from the campaign midway, the Congress is unlikely to pitch him against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 2012 state elections as the party is wary after the Uttar Pradesh debacle.

Sources say that the Congress does not want a full-blown Modi vs Rahul war as Gujarat elections are expected to be dominated by local issues and the development work carried out by the Chief Minister in the state. Aggressive campaigning by central leaders including Rahul Gandhi is likely to prove counter productive as it will give a chance to Modi to target the UPA more prominently on corruption and slow economic growth.

His political record:

  • He has spoken only twice in Parliament in his eight-year long career as an MP.
  • Rahul doesn't speak on contentious issues like coal scam, 2G scam, CWG scam.
  • He had threatened to send a legal notice to Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy after the Herald House expose but he didn't actually do so.
  • Rahul lost all except two assembly segments of Rai Bareli and Amethi in the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections where despite his aggressive campaign the Congress faced a humiliating rout.
  • He is known to be prone to prolonged spells of sulking and total disappearance from public life after electoral reverses.
  • Rahul withdrew from the 2010 Bihar Assembly Election campaign midway after negative feedback.
  • Rahul was criticised for speaking about Babri Masjid demolition and Kargil war in a politically immature manner.

With so much criticism against the Congress general secretary, the party seems to be taking a big risk but over the past few months, it has been noticed that Rahul's stature within the party is growing. In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, he played a key role in deciding portfolios of many young ministers. He even chose a few of them.

Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party fired first salvo on Friday by announcing 55 candidates for Uttar Pradesh. Though candidates were not announced from the Gandhi bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli, party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav will be contesting from Mainpuri and his daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav will be the SP candidate from Kannauj.

The fact that Mulayam Singh wants to fight another Lok Sabha election in 2014, when there were talks that he may well have fought his last Lok Sabha election, implies that he does have one eye on the impending political scenario at the Centre. The reason why he hasn't announced candidates for Amethi and Rae Bareli is being looked at as an attempt by him to keep a window of negotiations with the Congress party open. If the Congress agrees to play ball on terms and conditions set by him, then Mulayam Singh could think in terms of preventing this government from falling now, perhaps in return of something bigger at a later stage.

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