Rahul Gandhi has retreated to the pavilion, at least for the time being. But the prince of the Gandhi-Nehru family stays at the stumps, waiting to play his innings - perhaps at an appropriate time in the not too distant future.
His mother Sonia Gandhi Tuesday snubbed over-zealous dynasty votaries, who struck up a chant for Rahul's prime ministership after the 2009 general elections. Manmohan Singh was doing a fine job, said the party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan.
But by the time the reprimand came, the clamour for Rahul had done its magic.
At age 37, years after joining politics, Rahul Gandhi had finally made himself the talk of the town. From a diffident backbencher who was seldom audible in parliament to a frontrunner for the country's top job... That is Rahul Gandhi for his growing fan club of the young and not so young supporters.
Few would have believed possible even as late as last year the metamorphosis of Rahul Gandhi from a reticent first-time MP who gave the impression of being a diligent student of parliamentary politics into a zealous organisational leader of the 123-year-old Indian National Congress.
Those days, when Rahul Gandhi was still a distant and fuzzy second, it was his sister Priyanka who was the talk of the town; many felt it was Priyanka and not her seemingly less political and more tech-savvy brother who should have been fielded for a seat in parliament.
Who would not remember Rahul Gandhi's maiden speech in parliament on education? That somnolent afternoon, there was a ripple in the Lok Sabha visitors' gallery when Priyanka Gandhi showed up to listen to her brother talk on education.
She waved at Rahul Gandhi by way of encouragement but at the end it was still a diffident speech that her brother read out. More like a pupil in school dabbling in an essay rather than a prime ministerial hopeful launching well-thought out interventions in education.
Gone is that earnest tone. You now hear a dogged voice, throwing the gauntlet at no less than Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, a symbol of Dalit assertion and queen of all electoral strategies.
A night at the benighted hut of a Dalit family in his constituency of Amethi, a visit to a Dalit family which had lost six of its members in Etawah - events are unfolding one after another, pitch-forking the prince, who refused a ministerial berth this month, to the highest berth in government.
The process of transformation began, though tentatively, at the Congress 82nd plenary session in Hyderabad in 2006. Even then it was a somewhat naïve Rahul who spoke to the gathering. "Let us move into the battle field - the heart of India," he said.
A turning point came Sep 24, 2007 when Rahul Gandhi was inducted as one of the general secretaries of the Congress.
He was on firmly set on the path leading up to the altar of power. But the sudden spate of comments, propping him up as a prime ministerial candidate, set plotting minds wondering. Were they just an innocent prank - insouciant off-the cuff remarks? Or a sleight of hand - whatever be it - the chant for the princes' coronation has begun.
The coronation stage has been set up. All are waiting for that moment - when the high priestess of the Congress party will give her nod.
(Monobina Gupta is the political editor of IANS. She can be contacted at email@example.com)