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India's Rahul Gandhi pledges more active role

July 20, 2012


Indian politician Rahul Gandhi
Indian politician Rahul Gandhi. - File Photo by AP

NEW DELHI: Indian politician Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, pledged on Thursday to play “a more proactive role” in government, drawing praise from his struggling ruling Congress party.

Gandhi, widely touted as a future prime minister, is the son, grandson and great-grandson of Indian premiers, and currently serves as a member of parliament and head of the Congress party youth wing.

The cherub-faced bachelor has been under pressure from party loyalists to take up a higher public profile, but he has declined to accept a government post and often keeps his distance from the daily political fray.

“I will play a more proactive role in the party and (in) the government,”Gandhi told NDTV television in remarks that immediately triggered widespread speculation about him taking a cabinet post.

“The decision has been taken, the timing is up to the leadership,” he said, referring to his mother Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party president, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Gandhi, 42, is seen by many as a young political star, though he suffered a major setback when he headed Congress's dismally unsuccessful campaign in Uttar Pradesh state polls in March.

The politician, who rarely speaks to the media, made the comments after voting in presidential polls in New Delhi.

Congress spokesman Janardan Dwivedi hailed Gandhi's commitment as a “welcome step” for the party, which has been struggling to contain inflation, a yawning fiscal deficit, sliding growth and a string of corruption scandals.

“We will be very happy if Rahul Gandhi takes on some more responsibility and it will be a very welcome step,” Dwivedi said in a statement, adding it was up to the party to offer a political berth or an official post to Gandhi.

Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily responded with equal enthusiasm.

“This is a time when we require the enthusiastic and passionate youth leader to take a greater role not only in politics but also governance of this country,” Moily told reporters.

The development follows urgings by Law Minister Salman Khurshid for Gandhi to take a greater political role.

“Until now we have only seen cameos of his thought,” Khurshid said earlier this month. “But today we need an ideology to be given by our next-generation leader Rahul Gandhi to move forward. We have to be clear about what we want to go ahead with in the next elections,” he added.

With premier Singh expected to stand down at the end of his current term, Gandhi's actions are being closely watched for signs that he will lead the Congress party into the next general election, due in 2014.

His family lineage stretches back to Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India's first premier, with Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi and Rahul's father, Rajiv, also both prime ministers.