Mon, Nov 07, 2011 - Page 5 News List

India’s Rahul Gandhi set to head Congress Party

AFP, NEW DELHI

Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, first left, with Indian Prime Minister -Manmohan Singh, second left, and Rahul Gandhi, first right, paying their respects at the memorial of former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, on the anniversary of her death, in New Delhi, India, on Oct. 31.

Photo: EPA

Rahul Gandhi, tipped to be a future Indian prime minister, is set to take over as president of the country’s ruling Congress Party by the end of the year, a report said on Saturday.

Rahul was named in August to a four-member panel to run the party’s affairs, while his mother, current Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, recovered from surgery for an undisclosed condition.

The Economic Times newspaper said several unnamed party leaders, including a Cabinet minister, had confirmed that Rahul would take over the party’s reins in “four to eight weeks.”

Sonia Gandhi, who engineered the party’s return to power in 2004, would restrict her role to providing broad directions to the party and government, the newspaper said.

A senior aide to Rahul said he was aware of no such plans.

“Whenever the party takes such a decision it will be officially announced, but there is no such thing happening in the party,” said the aide, who asked not to be identified.

Congress General-Secretary Digvijay Singh said on Friday “the young leader [Rahul] should now play a bigger role. Rahul has to come into the mainstream.”

“Right now he is looking only after Youth Congress and the student wing of the party. I feel now he has to look after us all,” he said.

There has been media speculation Rahul could be appointed party chief on Nov. 19, the birthday of his late grandmother, former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Rahul would be stepping into the fray as Congress battles its biggest crisis since taking power in 2004, facing a string of corruption scandals and soaring inflation.

The party also faces a string of key elections next year, including one in pivotal Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

Sonia Gandhi appointed her son to the post of Congress Party general-secretary for youth affairs in 2007, a move seen as cementing his position as heir apparent.

“The whole plan of Sonia has always been that the scepter must be handed to the son,” political analyst Inder Malhotra said.

The Gandhi dynasty, which stems from first post--independence Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and has no link to independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, has exerted huge influence in India during most of its post--independence history.

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