After years in the shadows as a reluctant heir-apparent, India's Rahul Gandhi is set to lead the ruling Congress party's campaign in a general election it has only a slim chance of winning.
Congress, in power for the last decade, is struggling in opinion polls ahead of elections due by May, with a string of corruption scandals and a reputation for poor governance engulfing its administration.
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Rahul GandhiVirendra Singh Gosain | Hindustan Times | Getty Images
A resurgent Hindu nationalist opposition party and a new anti-corruption movement appear to have far more pulling power among the voters.
"The Congress party president declared that the next election campaign will be led by Rahul Gandhi," senior party leader Janardan Dwidedi said on Thursday after meeting Sonia Gandhi, Rahul's mother, party head and one of India's most powerful figures.
Congress delegates will formally choose the 43-year-old heir of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty as campaign leader, in the hope that the charisma of the family can still bring in votes. His mother Sonia is widely expected to remain party chief.
He will not be prime ministerial candidate, in line with his party's tradition of naming leaders only after poll victories. Congress also hopes this will avoid a direct presidential-style campaign against the charismatic Hindu nationalist opposition leader Narendra Modi.
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Gandhi has launched moves to clean up the 128-year-old Congress party and stem its slide, including asking for the right to name at least 100 of the party candidates to the 543-member parliament as a way to ditch many of the old guard.