Rahul Gandhi to be India’s PM after 2014 election says poll

NEW DELHI, February 13: A majority of urban Indians believes that Rahul Gandhi will most probably be the prime minister of this country after the next general election in 2014, an opinion poll published here today said.

The poll, published in The Times of India today in its recently-launched weekly broadsheet "Crest Edition," said that 56% of those taking part in it in the country’s six biggest cities believe that Gandhi will take charge of the world’s largest democracy after the next general election, due in early 2014. The weekly describes him as "king-apprentice."

Rahul Gandhi belongs to the so-called "Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty," founded by first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. The family, dubbed "dynasty" by historians, has already produced three prime ministers who ruled the world’s largest democracy for nearly 38 years since India became independent in 1947.

Still single, Rahul Gandhi may be the fourth one in the making. Starting at Harvard University, he graduated from Rollins College in Florida (USA), and has an M.Phil from Trinity College, Cambridge University, UK.

In a now-famous anti-dynasty statement in 2008, Gandhi had declared: "It is undemocratic that the Congress is still led by a Gandhi. But it’s the reality…My position gives me certain privileges. It is a fact of life in India that success in politics depends on who you know or are related to. I want to change the system."

At present, he is a second-term member of parliament (MP) from Amethi Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh. Gandhi, who will turn 40 in June, is the son of ruling Congress Party’s Italian-born President Sonia Gandhi and late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He is now a general secretary in the ruling party, in charge of rejuvenating its moribund youth wing by democratizing it.

More than five million young men and women have joined the Youth Congress since mid-2008, when he began his nation-wide campaign to persuade the youth to join politics to change the way India is being run at the moment. He was instrumental in pushing his indecisive party to back India’s controversial civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States in 2008. Many analysts give him a good deal of credit for the Congress Party’s victory in last year’s general election.

The opinion poll was conducted in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The newspaper did not disclose either the size of its sample or when it was conducted. Nor did it disclose the identity of the agency that conducted the poll.

The Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won a second five-year term in a parliamentary election last year. The second term in office of incumbent Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, now aged 78, ends on 22 May, 2014.

The newspaper said: "The poll indicated that the most appreciated attribute of the Gandhi scion is his youthfulness, followed by his ability to connect and his credibility. The Gandhi name itself counted for less."

The daily added: "Rahul’s performance ratings are impressive, with almost two-thirds saying it has been "excellent" to "good," and less than one-tenth rating it "poor" or "very poor."

In the opinion poll, voters were asked: As of today, who is your favourite choice for the prime ministership?

Forty four per cent said they will pick Dr Manmohan Singh, while 31% chose Rahul Gandhi. Ten per cent picked Gujarat’s controversial Chief Minister Narenda Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—-the second biggest political party in the country today—-while Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram scored four per cent.

The pollsters asked the voters: When do you think Rahul Gandhi will become prime minister? Their responses: 56% said after the next general election, 27% said within a decade, while seven per cent said within the current term of this government. However, 11% said he will never get the coveted job.

Asked who they will pick if they have to choose between Sonia Gandhi and her son, 77% said they will vote for Rahul Gandhi, while 23% said they will go for his mother.

(Readers will recall that the Congress Parliamentary Party wanted Sonia Gandhi to become prime minister after the UPA won the general election in 2004. She opted out and named the Oxford-and-Cambridge-educated economist-turned-politician Dr Singh as her choice for the top job. Dr Singh was her automatic choice for a second term too when the UPA was voted back to power last year).

The pollster asked the voters: What attracts you to Rahul Gandhi?

The voters responded thus: his youthfulness 37%, his ability to connect 24%, his credibility 13%, his dynamism 12%; and his family name eight per cent. The remaining seven per cent had no opinion.

Asked how they will rate his performance so far, 31% said excellent, another 31% gave him good, while 30% rated him as average. Seven per cent ticked him poor while one per cent ticked him off as very poor.

Forty two per cent of the voters said the youth icon’s style of politics is similar to that of his assassinated father, while 23% said his style reminds them of his grandmother Indira Gandhi. Only five per cent think he reminds them of his great grandfather Jawahar Lal Nehru, while 30% think he is evolving his own style.

Nehru ruled India for nearly 17 years (1947-64) without an interruption. His daughter Indira Gandhi was prime minister for nearly 16 years (1966-77 and 1980-84), and was shot dead on the morning of 31 October 1984 by one of her own Sikh security guards at her official residence.

Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his mother the same night and ran the country for five years (1984-89). He lost the 1989 election, but was on his way back to power in the 1991 poll, when he was assassinated by an LTTE woman suicide bomber at an election rally at Sriperumbudur near Chennai.

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