Rahul Gandhi calls for economic reforms at Congress rally in India

Rahul, son of former premier Rajiv, speaks at rally in what is seen as launch of power bid

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2012, 2:35am

Rahul Gandhi made a rare public address to tens of thousands of supporters yesterday, raising his profile before a possible bid to become prime minister.

Gandhi, 42, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all led India, vowed to fight to modernise the country with reforms he said would help the poor and provide jobs.

"We need economic reforms because only when businesses operate well will there be progress, and then we can run programmes to benefit the poor," he said.

Gandhi vowed to help push through policy changes that will transform India's retail sector by allowing supermarket chains such as Walmart and Tesco to open in India and tap into its growing consumer market.

"The world is saying that India is standing up," he told a Congress party rally at an open-air venue in the capital.

"The youth here will show not just India, but also the whole world the way forward."

General elections are not due in India until 2014, but the Congress-led government has suffered a difficult few years in power and its leaders are eager to revive momentum in the long run-up to polls.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has been buffeted by falling economic growth, a parliamentary deadlock that has scuppered his legislative plans and a damaging series of corruption scandals. Singh, 80, who also spoke at the rally, is expected to step down before the general election, with pressure on Gandhi to take a shot at the post.

The Gandhi dynasty is descended through Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister after independence in 1947, his daughter Indira Gandhi, who was twice premier, and Indira's son Rajiv. But Rahul Gandhi's appetite for India's turbulent political scene has been questioned. He has declined to take on any ministerial responsibilities, concentrating instead on leading the Congress youth wing.