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'Prince' Rahul hits int'l headlines

Newsweek has the Amethi MP on its latest cover, reports Saroj Nagi.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2006 01:55 IST
Saroj Nagi

The question as to when Rahul Gandhi will step out into the spotlight is speculated not just in the Indian media but also in global magazines. The latest issue of Newsweek has the Amethi MP on its cover as the person who is expected to make his mark in 2007 along with half a dozen other political leaders from different countries.

Described as India's "crown prince" and the next "big hope" of the Congress party which has not won a clear majority in the general elections for over 20 years now and has been out of power in Uttar Pradesh for over 15 years, Rahul may find that while his name alone may put him on the top, charisma is not enough to keep him there.

Sonia and Congress leaders may want Rahul to take up a party leadership post or be part of the government but the 36-year old leader has not yet revealed his mind. His hesitation to take up the campaign in UP is "understandable," the article said attributing the assessment to analysts. It added that reviving the Congress' fortunes would be tough and perhaps even futile and Rahul may not want to get tagged with a major failure in the early stages of his political career.

The write-up says that unlike his father Rajiv, mother Sonia and grandmother Indira, Rahul is not a reluctant politician but a deliberate one who has, since he entered active politics, become one of his mother's key advisers. He has kept a low profile that is becoming harder to maintain as Congress members increasingly treat him like a center of power.

"He grew up in a sterilised security bubble and seldom strays from it. He rarely speaks to the media. Critics suggest, perhaps unfairly, that he's little more than a dilettante," said the report. It added that he is becoming a popular leader in his own right, his sincerity and disarming smile, according to his supporters, connecting him with the voters.

Congress leaders refused to comment on the article that said that he has not made any stirring speeches in Parliament and his views on issues like foreign policy, finance or Pakistan are not known. Rahul has often said that he would like to create a "new brand of politics" that does not divide people on the basis of caste or religion and would like NGOs to play an important role in the country's development.

According to the article, when Rahul does step out into the spotlight, he would face huge expectations, with a limit to the loyalty of the poor and the underprivileged who would want the Congress to pursue policies that reduce poverty. "Rahul Gandhi is acutely aware of the privileges and burdens that come with his name. Now he will have to commit himself to putting it to work for his party and his country," the journal said.

It also said that despite his pedigree, Rahul wants to be a regular guy. He is a sportsman, is keen on rifle shooting and cricket and has a Spanish girlfriend named Veronique whom he met while studying in England. He apparently has no plans to marry soon, the magazine said.

First Published: Dec 22, 2006 00:26 IST