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On the campaign trail with India's 'reluctant prince'
India Correspondent Richard Lindell reports on Rahul Gandi's campaign in Uttar Pradesh

They are India's version of the Kennedys. For decades, the Nehru family has dominated Indian political life.

Now the next anointed member of the dynasty, Rahul Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru's great grandson, is emerging as a force of his own.

Over the past few weeks the man known as "the reluctant prince" has been on the campaign trail, talking up his Congress Party in elections in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state.

India correspondent, Richard Lindell, reports.
Transcript
(Footage of Rahul Gandhi rally)

RICHARD LINDELL, REPORTER: 'Jai ho' has become an anthem of hope and aspiration among India's young and poor. This idea of a emerging from poverty is also the platform on which the Congress Party is campaigning.

And the face of that campaign is Rahul Gandhi, the 41 year old son of Congress president Sonia Ghandi.

Rahul Gandhi has been branded as the man who understands the plight of the poor and the man who can transform their lives.

RAHUL GANDHI, NATIONAL CONGRESS MP (translation): The lower classes government will come to power. It will be the farmers, the poor man's government that will come to government. But listen to me, whatever I do it will be for the labourers, for the farmers and the poor.

RICHARD LINDELL: This rally is typical of many the Congress held during its campaign. The Ghandi name draws massive crowds and not surprisingly, his promises to the Party faithful are applauded and accepted.

FEMALE CONGRESS PARTY SUPPORTER (translation): He's the youth icon for all of us and he's doing a lot of work for the country and everybody can see that.

RICHARD LINDELL: Away from the rally, there's a mix of support and scepticism. At a roadside tea stall these men share their problems typical in one of India's poorest states.

MAN 1 (translation): Look, he seems all right. He's not wrong. But why doesn't change happen? Everybody is feeding the corrupt. The corrupt are getting everything; money, everything. The poor do not even have bread.

RICHARD LINDELL: And this is one of the issues Rahul Gandhi faces. His brand is tainted by the rampant corruption that's infected his Party.

As hard as his minders try to project Rahul Gandhi as a fresh new face, he is a Ghandi and for many the embodiment of the ruling class.

MANINDRA THAKUR, POLITICAL ANALYST: I do not think that has that political intelligence to read the minds of the people, something that his grandmother, Indira Gandhi had. I don't think he has that. And he also doesn't have the image of his father, Rajiv Gandhi, which was easily very transparent to the people, that of very honest, sincere man.

RICHARD LINDELL: Jatin Gandhi, who isn't a relation, is the author of the book 'Rahul: The First Authoritative Biography'. He says the scion of the Ghandi dynasty is working hard to improve his image.

JATIN GANDHI, AUTHOR 'RAHUL: THE FIRST AUTHORITATIVE BIOGRAPHY': The way he tries to mingle, you know coming down from his privileged background and trying to understand the poor. Of course a large part of it is also very well projected. It is part of the propaganda machine he works very hard.

I think there's a general attempt of trying to be on the side of the underdog. It is something that the Gandhi clan has, you now always tried to cash in on.

RICHARD LINDELL: Rahul Gandhi has also worked hard on his political skills. Six or seven years ago he was considered accident prone and a poor public speaker. But he now commands the stage and addresses crowds with confidence and with a message that resonates.

Every public appearance by Rahul Gandhi is tightly managed from rallies like this one to village visits among the poor. Interview requests are always declined. This strictly controlled profile leaves the public none the wiser as to whether the man dubbed the reluctant prince is capable of being India's next prime minister.

His initial reluctance may be explained by his family history. Both his father and grandmother were assassinated when they were prime minister. But he's campaigned hard in this state providing the strongest indication yet that he's now ready to lead.

JATIN GANDHI: He definitely does want a leadership role in politics. The party is following Rahul Gandhi in every aspect in the UP campaign.

It is also an attempt to tell the rest of the country he's very serious about politics. He's not into it because it is dynasty. He's into this because he's working hard to be a career politician.

RICHARD LINDELL: The Congress Party is not expected to win in Uttar Pradesh. But the state of 200 million people is an important test for the ruling National Congress as it looks to elections in 2014. If the Party can pick up more state seats now, it will lift the spirits of the government of prime minister Manmohan Singh, which is under siege following a string of corruption scandals.

MANINDRA THAKUR: It's important for the Party to perform well in UP. But within the party I do not see any challenge to Rahul Gandhi.

In fact, some analysts would suggest that they do not want to any strong leader to emerge from UP, because a strong leader from UP would be a major challenge for Rahul Ghandi.

RICHARD LINDELL: Still Rahul Gandhi's backers want a respectable return in the state to justify a seamless transition from the older generation to the fifth generation in the Nehru-Ghandi dynasty and the man, it seems, who was born to be prime minister.
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