Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi addresses an election rally in Etawah. PTI photo
From a shy young politician in 2004 to a confident leader in 2012, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, 41, has come of age.
The transformation was evident on Monday when Rahul, once known for his silence rather than eloquence, fielded questions with confidence and assertiveness at his first news conference in Varanasi during the assembly election campaign in the complex and important state of Uttar Pradesh.
There was an unmistakable air of authority of a leader keen to take the battle to the opposition camp.
The Amethi MP diligently tackled questions about his role in politics.
"All political leaders in India - all the top ones - have an obsession with prime ministership. This is not Rahul Gandhi's obsession," he said.
From the day he entered politics, there have been calls within the Congress that Rahul should take on a bigger leadership role.
The clamour grew after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi underwent a surgery abroad last August for an undisclosed ailment.
She has since recovered and is campaigning actively in the poll-bound states.
Rahul has tactfully set aside the question of his taking on bigger responsibilities in the party and government in his previous interactions with journalists.
At a news conference in Delhi on May 5, 2009 after the Congress returned to power in the 15th Lok Sabha elections, Rahul was asked if he would take over as Congress president or join the government.
He replied hesitantly: "Look, unless I am forced, which the Prime Minister and my boss (Congress president Sonia Gandhi) can do..."
This was in stark contrast to his articulation skills on display in Varanasi on Monday.
A combative Rahul's body language said it all. Though there were other party leaders from UP on the stage, Rahul himself conducted the news conference.
At one instance, he even stood up to drive home his point that the Congress is now standing on its own feet in Uttar Pradesh.