Last weekend, India’s Congress Party, which has enjoyed power for almost nine years as the majority party in the current UPA coalition government, set down a roadmap not only for its own future but also for that of the world’s largest democracy. At a party convention in the northern city of Jaipur, it appointed the young parliamentarian Rahul Gandhi, 42, the vice-president of the party. Not coincidentally, Gandhi’s mother, Sonia Gandhi, has been president of the Congress since 1998.
Mr. Gandhi’s closely watched, if largely undistinguished, political career is now eight years old. In this period he has served as a general secretary of the party and as the president of the Young Congress, but has never held a post in government. His accession to second-in-command was widely expected, and brought an end to what one commentator described as“one of the longest political gestations in Indian history.” It also set him up to become the next prime minister if the current coalition government is voted back into power in next year’s general elections.
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