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Congress party elder says Rahul Gandhi ready to be PM

With pressure on India's current PM Manmohan Singh, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh says 'it is time' heir-apparent of Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty can step into top role.

Rahul Gandhi appears at an election rally in April for the Congress candidate Sankar Malakar, who, unlike several others backed by Gandhi, would go on to win his constituency. Diptendu Dutta / AFP
Rahul Gandhi appears at an election rally in April for the Congress candidate Sankar Malakar, who, unlike several others backed by Gandhi, would go on to win his constituency. Diptendu Dutta / AFP

NEW DELHI // An influential member of India's ruling party has said that Rahul Gandhi, seen as the next generation of his family's political dynasty, is ready to become prime minister.

Mr Gandhi, who turned 41 at the weekend, is widely viewed as a leader-in-waiting, but has so far avoided roles in the cabinet, preferring instead to focus on building up a youth movement of the ruling Congress party.

"It is time that Rahul Gandhi can become the prime minister," the Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh was quoted by the news agency The Press Trust of India as saying on Sunday.

The public call of support for Mr Gandhi comes amid pressure on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 78, who critics say has failed to give the government direction amid a series of corruption scandals and challenges.

The outspoken Mr Singh is close to the Gandhi family and to Rahul Gandhi's mother, Sonia Gandhi, who is president of the Congress party.

The Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty has ruled India for most of the post-independence era, providing three prime ministers.

Mr Singh said Mr Ghandi, a member of parliament, was now a mature person with sound political instincts required for the top job.

"Rahul has been working for the party for the last seven to eight years," MrSingh said, adding that he has "the right qualities, instincts and experience to take up the mantle of prime ministership now."

But the "prince", as Mr Gandhi's detractors call him, has made some missteps recently, including making false claims about police brutality during a protest by farmers in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

This incident, along with the poor performance of many of his hand-picked candidates in recent state elections, raised fresh questions about whether Mr Gandhi was prime ministerial material.

Mr Gandhi, who never has stated outright that he wants to lead India, has said becoming premier is not the only "job" in the world and there "are many other jobs a person can do".