- POSTED: 12 May 2014 19:08
- UPDATED: 12 May 2014 19:21
As the ruling Congress party faces growing voter discontent over a slowing economy, rising inflation and a stream of corruption scandals, it is up to a "reluctant" Rahul Gandhi to to turn things around and deliver an election win.
NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi is facing an uphill task to deliver an election win for the ruling Congress party.
After being in power for 10 years, voter discontent over a slowing economy, rising inflation and a stream of corruption scandals have left the party very weak.
Critics, who have often called Rahul the “reluctant prince”, are questioning the Congress prime ministerial candidate’s ability to run the country.
Rahul’s great-grandfather, grandmother and father have served as prime ministers of India.
Now, the 43-year-old leads the 150-year-old Congress Party's campaign in the world's largest electoral exercise.
Ten years into its rule, Congress has been swamped with criticism over rising inflation, poor economic growth and a rash of corruption trials involving party officials.
"The government of mother and son (Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi) has eroded the country's coffers. Mother's interest is to just benefit the son and not the country," said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Rahul Gandhi was first exposed to public life as a teenager, mourning the assassination of his grandmother Indira Gandhi in 1984.
Seven years later, he was consoling his mother Sonia at the funeral of his murdered father, Rajiv.
"My grandmother was assassinated,” said Rahul, who is also vice president of the Congress Party.
“My father also got killed. One day they might kill me too. I don't care."
The usually soft-spoken Rahul Gandhi has not had the same success as his BJP opponent, the firebrand Narendra Modi, in stirring the adoration of the masses.
Political observers say the Congress Party's de facto prime ministerial candidate has been wary, conflicting and late in connecting with the electorate.
"He took whole of 10 years to become the vice president of the Congress party,” said Neerja Choudhury, a political expert.
“Part of the troubles the Congress party faces today stems from the fact that Rahul Gandhi, certainly in United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II, has been an on-and-off politician."
Across India, Rahul Gandhi is trying to resurrect his party. He might be able to woo some voters. But as some of his critics say, two incidents in the last three years have highlighted his political reluctance and indifference.
He failed to commit to ending corruption when 80-year-old Anna Hazare went on a hunger strike demanding for an anti-corruption bill.
He speaks passionately about youth and women empowerment, but neglected to stand by protesters after the horrific 2012 gang-rape of a 23-year-old medical student.
Whether reluctant or ready, analysts want to see Rahul Gandhi prove his political lineage, and not just in name.
They say he needs to engage voters in bread-and-butter realities and on how he plans to transform India.