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Title:Rahul Gandhi uses Indira Gandhi's birth anniversary to become Narendra Modi’s official rival

News Paper

NEW DELHI: Indira Gandhi stared down from the electricity poles across the capital and flashed out of the frontpages on her birth anniversary. And Rahul Gandhi's high-voltage assault on saffron strongman Narendra Modi ensured the occasion was more than noticed unlike 2014.

Indira's heightened presence on Thursday could be attributed to a convergence of factors, the catalyst being the imminent crowning of Rahul Gandhi as the Congress supremo.

A spurt in Rahul-authored attacks on RSS and Modi, the concerted Congress bid to corner government on policy-making and a fresh emphasis on the strategy to box the Centre as a pro-rich, flow from the road smoothed by the recent Bihar victory.

The BJP rout in the rural heartland barely months after its wipeout in an urban Delhi has raised hopes in a down-in-the-dumps Congress post-2014. Congress' critical role in alliance-making has given it a place on the victory podium despite its marginal electoral clout.

At the same time, Congress managers have been looking for an opening to clinch the "generational change" in leadership. By all indications, Rahul will take over the mantle soon, becoming an official rival to Modi.

Indira's anniversary laid out the perfect stage to freeze the future as 'Rahul vs Modi' battle, the ground assiduously prepared by the heir apparent in his post-sabbatical activist avatar through direct attacks on PM.

No reason, the focus on Indira contrasted starkly with the low-key occasion it was in the aftermath of the electoral bloodbath in 2014.

The aggression against RSS, Modi and the government appears planned to position Rahul stronger in ideological and leadership terms, critical to quelling the doubts in Congress ranks. His assurance to the old guard that their experience is a must in his scheme of things was seen as an attempt at a smooth transition.

Politically, there appeared a canny calculation in the way it was carried out. The "probe me-jail me" dare would test the BJP since a retaliation would only endanger the saffron bid for a peaceful Parliament session starting next week. Post-Bihar, there is a strong feeling in Congress that it should up the confrontation and block policy-making - as done by the BJP in opposition.

Given the calculations, Congress lapped up the idea of whipping up Indira's memory to launch Rahul.