New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi will lead the Congress campaign for the general election, but his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi has decided he will not be the party's prime ministerial candidate. (Track LIVE updates)
Her decision was taken at yesterday evening's meeting of the Congress Working Committee - the party's senior-most leaders including Mr Gandhi who is Vice-President.
Many in the group urged that the 43-year-old formally run for prime minister. But Mrs Gandhi said the Congress traditionally does not name a candidate before voting is held and that Mr Gandhi will serve as the campaign chief, a decision that was then endorsed by the group.
"I am a dedicated soldier of the Congress. I will perform any duty party asks me to," Mr Gandhi said, according to Janardhan Dwivedi who was present.
The resolution adopted at yesterday's Congress meeting will be ratified at a huge conclave today to be attended by thousands of party workers.
In September, the main opposition party, the BJP, declared Narendra Modi as its presumptive prime minister. Sources in the Congress acknowledge that senior leaders are not in favour of pitting Mr Gandhi against Mr Modi, whose campaign style is more aggressive and dynamic.
Mr Gandhi was the star campaigner for the Congress in recent elections in key states like Delhi, but the party performed abysmally.
His appetite for power has been questioned by critics, who also say his ability and instincts remain unproven. He has no ministerial experience and has typically been evasive about his future role. "Whether I will become prime minister, this an irrelevant question -- it's all smoke," he told business leaders last April, adding his goal was to "help one billion people find their voices".
In a rare moment of public leadership, he publicly contradicted the Prime Minister in September by denouncing the government's intention to move a decree to shield lawmakers convicted of corruption. The move was criticised for undermining the authority of the Prime Minister.