Rahul Gandhi to lead campaign for India's ruling Congress party

 

Members of India's ruling Congress party erupted in rapturous applause today for Rahul Gandhi, heir to the country's Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, who is leading the struggling party's campaign in a general election in May.

Congress announced late yesterday that the party will not formally declare Gandhi as its candidate for prime minister — a bit of political maneuvering aimed at protecting the 43-year-old from being a scapegoat for his party's problems.

But the election is still seen as a contest that pits Gandhi against a powerful opposition figure, Narendra Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party has significant momentum after trouncing Congress in state polls in December.

The state polls were seen as a gauge of voter sentiment in India, a country of 1.2 billion people and the world's biggest democracy.

Today, thousands of Congress party leaders and workers hoisted posters of Gandhi and shouted “We want Rahul for PM” during a meeting in Delhi to prepare for the upcoming polls. They were asking Sonia Gandhi, the current head of the Congress party and Rahul's mother, to reverse her decision not to formally declare him as a candidate.

Rahul Gandhi was expected to address the crowd later.

But the euphoria comes at a time when the Congress Party's stock is low, battered by corruption scandals, internal feuding, and an inability to deal with a stumbling economy and deep-rooted problems with poverty, infrastructure and education.

Modi, meanwhile, has been chief minister of western Gujarat state for the past 11 years and is credited with turning it into an industrial haven. Critics question whether the Hindu nationalist chief can be a truly secular leader over India's many cultures.

Sonia Gandhi played on those fears today, telling the gathering in New Delhi that the election “will be a battle for the preservation of our age old secular traditions.”

Modi has denied any role in the Gujarat violence and says he bears no responsibility for the killings.

Manmohan Singh has been India's prime minister for the past 10 years but said this month he would not seek another terms. A technocrat, he was chosen to fill the prime minister's seat in 2004 by Sonia Gandhi, the widow of assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

But he has been widely seen as a regent, keeping the seat warm until Rahul Gandhi was ready to take what some see as his birthright.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'