Indian FM sees Rahul Gandhi as next PM
"The day is not far when Rahul Gandhi will be Indian Prime Minister," said Foreign Minister.
Rahul Gandhi, the young son of the chief of India's ruling Congress party, could be the next prime minister if the party retains power in elections this year, local media on Friday quoted a senior government minister as saying.
Some Congress leaders touted the 38-year-old heir to India's most famous political dynasty for the top job last year, although at the time critics saw this as jumping the gun.
Speculation is rising again as the country gears up for national elections expected by May, 2009.
"The day is not far when Rahul Gandhi will be Indian Prime Minister," said Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, according to the Mail Today newspaper.
"Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister when he was 40 and his son Rahul Gandhi will follow his footsteps."
Gandhi's youthfulness would stand in sharp contrast to that of 81-year-old L.K. Advani, leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, and the party says he will appeal to the army of young voters in the billion-plus nation.
The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has ruled for most of the time since independence. Rahul's great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister in 1947, and his mother, Sonia, is the Congress party chief and considered the country's most powerful politician.
When contacted by Reuters, the party spokesman refused to be drawn on whether Gandhi will be put forward this year.
"Prime minister, one day"
"I cannot say when it will happen," said Anand Sharma. "He is one of our star campaigners and a future leader. He will be the Prime Minister of India, one day."
The bespectacled Rahul, a Cambridge-educated business consultant, surprised India by contesting polls in 2004 in parliamentary elections.
He became a Congress Party general-secretary last year, a post seen as grooming him for a shot at the prime ministership in the future.
Ganguli said Gandhi is slowly asserting himself, and last year played a role in securing a landmark civilian nuclear deal with the United States. Mukherjee's comments could cast a shadow over the current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ganguli added.
"Pranab Mukherjee is a very careful talker. Bringing it up now ahead of the Lok Sabha (lower chamber of Indian parliament) elections, it makes Manmohan Singh's position a bit uncertain."
But Congress may prefer the septuagenarian Singh's steady hand at a time of rising tensions between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, as New Delhi blames Pakistan-based militants for the Mumbai attacks which killed 179 people.
"If India-Pakistan relations deteriorate, the question may arise whether it will be safe to have an inexperienced young man at the helm," Ganguli said.
Reuters Last Mod: 09 Ocak 2009, 11:17