Catapulted to the top rung of Congress leadership, the party's youth icon Rahul Gandhi, touted as the future prime minister, faces the daunting task of reversing the slide in its support base and harvest the soaring young population into its voters.
A fourth-generation scion of the politically powerful Nehru–Gandhi family, 42-year-old Rahul's place under the sun has highlighted the party's lack of alternatives and its continuing reliance on the first political family for leadership and direction.
Rahul, an AICC General Secretary before being elevated to the post of Vice-President, raised his political profile and emerged from his parents' shadow in charting UPA's return to power in 2009 and helping the party's resurgence in Uttar Pradesh.
He brought the most unexpected cheer to Congress in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and the party will now look up to him for a hat-trick at the Centre.
The Congress MP from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, widely credited for bringing young faces in the Congress at the grassroot level, has been learning the political ropes by spending time in his constituency and other villages.
After helping Congress in bagging 21 out of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, his party's showing in the 2012 Assembly elections in the crucial state came as a dampener despite extensively campaigning. The party came a disappointing fourth in the elections which was swept by Mulayam Yadav's Samajwadi party.
Born on June 19, 1970, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his Italian-born widow, Sonia was seen as a shy man whose interests lay more in cricket matches and the outdoors than in political life.
His decision to enter formal politics before the 2004 general election therefore took many by surprise.