At 11 a.m. on Saturday when the meeting takes place at the All India Congress Committee offices to select the next Congress president, it will not be just the Congress Working Committee (CWC) members who will decide. All state unit presidents of the party are being flown in for the meeting. Besides, all Congress MPs have been asked to join in and all Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leaders will congregate along with a large number of state leaders.
Rahul Gandhi, the outgoing Congress president, has worked it out so that the consensus on the next leader of the grand old party is built with 150-170 gathered for the meeting.
In one fell swoop, he also appears to have effectively scuppered his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's chances of becoming party chief he is adamant that no one from the Congress first family should occupy the post.
Displaying tactical awareness, Rahul Gandhi decided to do this because he did not want Sonia Gandhi's coterie to choose the Congress president within the narrow prism of CWC which is dominated by the old guard that the outgoing party president is on a collision course with.
Sonia Gandhi's coterie would likely have manipulated the system and selected one of their own. Rahul Gandhi as outgoing president has thrown open the decision making to a larger group that comprises Young Turks like Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Deora. As a result it is believed that the balance of power in the party will tilt in favour of the Young Turks on Saturday.
The ability to manoeuvre by Sonia Gandhi's coterie has now been limited and curtailed. While the old guard's strategy is predicated around the likes of Mallikarjun Kharge and Mukul Wasnik, Rahul Gandhi's stretagy revolves around Scindia and Pilot.
A raucous meeting is expected where a bellicose younger brigade will not relent and make a pitch for the top job in the party.
This has the makings of a defining battle for the party and is in many ways a throwback to the young Indira Gandhi and her fight for against an ageing Syndicate as an embattled Congress looks for a new name, a new face and new leadership. And critical to that is Rahul Gandhi who is determined that neither his sister nor any member of the coterie that surrounds his mother gets the job so that the leadership vests in new blood, like Scindia and Pilot.
( With inputs from IANS )