NEW DELHI — Rahul Gandhi will lead the ruling Congress party’s campaign for parliamentary elections due within 18 months, signaling the elevation of the latest member of India’s famed political dynasty.
Earlier this week, Congress president Sonia Gandhi appointed her son Rahul, 42, to head a six-member panel that will formulate and implement alliances, the manifesto, and publicity ahead of the 2014 vote.
‘‘It’s a clear indication that eventually he will lead the party and will become prime minister if Congress comes to power,’’ said Sanjay Kumar, a New Delhi-based analyst at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
Manmohan Singh, India’s 80-year-old prime minister, will look to Gandhi to help resurrect the government’s fortunes after being dogged for almost two years by corruption allegations, a faltering economy, and plunging popularity. Flunking a major leadership test, Congress was routed into fourth place in May elections in Uttar Pradesh state after Rahul Gandhi took charge of the party’s campaign.
Since being elected to parliament eight years ago, Rahul Gandhi has kept a low profile, giving few major speeches and declining requests to join Singh’s government. If Congress were to win the 2014 election, senior party figures have said they would press Gandhi to become prime minister.
When he has spoken Gandhi has focused on issues facing India’s poor and how to make economic growth more inclusive.