"Rahul Gandhi is de facto Congress chief but he should become de jure" and make the party battle ready without waiting for anti-incumbency to build up against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior party leader Jairam Ramesh said on Sunday.
Ramesh also said it was high time that the Congress changed in tune with changing India as "our communication strategy is not very effective" and "we need an aggressive outreach" with various sections of society against the backdrop of successive poll debacles.
"Challenges are very heavy but there is no room for despondency. Those who are writing off Congress party are writing its premature obituary," the former union minister told PTI, apparently referring to Modi's repeated calls for a "Congress-mukt Bharat".
Making a strong pitch for Gandhi's leadership, Ramesh said "uncertainty does not help" and added that the challenges faced by the Congress were akin to those that prevailed when Sonia Gandhi had taken over the party in March 1998.
Ramesh insisted that the Congress vice president has "a lot of ideas on organisational restructuring and I hope he gets into position very soon. He is de facto, but he should become de jure".
Noting that Congress presidentship has its own institutional importance, Ramesh said Rahul Gandhi should take charge "as soon as possible".
"He has got a clear concept of strategy. He knows people he wants to bring. One thing should be clear that when Rahul Gandhi takes over, a team takes over. When? that is the big question," he said.
He recalled that when Sonia Gandhi took over as party chief, the Congress had only two states with it. Digvijay Singh was the chief minister of MP and Giridhar Gamang of Odisha. But at that time the Congress' strength in the Lok Sabha was 140.
Ramesh said, for the first time, the party was very weak in the Lok Sabha, had reduced strength in the Rajya Sabha and was in power in very few states. "It is a difficult situation," he said.
Ramesh's strong pitch for Rahul's elevation has come at a time when opinion appears to be divided in the organisation on the timing of his taking over.
Punjab PCC Chief Amarinder Singh had made a pitch for Rahul's elevation saying that Sonia is now approaching 70 and her deputy can get into her shoes if she was feeling tired. Senior leader Ambika Soni, however, said Sonia was working tirelessly and should continue, a view shared by another party leader Kamal Nath.