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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 09:37 GMT
Rahul Gandhi starts India drive
Rahul Gandhi (right) with mother Sonia Gandhi
Mr Gandhi belongs to the powerful Nehru-Gandhi dynasty
Senior Indian Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi has set off from the eastern state of Orissa on a nationwide tour to boost his party's profile.

Mr Gandhi is seen as the heir to the Congress Party leadership and a possible future prime minister.

He started his journey from the poor tribal district of Noapara.

The campaign - nicknamed the "discovery of India" - is aimed at winning hearts and minds and promoting Mr Gandhi as a future leader of the country.

Son of Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi and former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi is the youngest member of India's Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty.

Three generations of his family have served as Indian prime minister.

His great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was independent India's first prime minister, and his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi were both prime ministers.

Reviving the party

Mr Gandhi kicked off his "discovery of India" tour from Seenapali village and will cover 13 districts over the next four days.

Senior Congress officials say he will meet party workers, youth, tribals and farmers.

Enthusiastic party leaders hope Mr Gandhi's tour will re-energise party workers.

Analysts say Mr Gandhi's visit to Orissa is significant as the state assembly elections are due within a year.

Children wear masks of Rahul Gandhi on his birthday
Rahul Gandhi is very popular with Congress supporters

Mr Gandhi's father, Rajiv Gandhi, also visited the area 23 years ago and announced some development schemes.

Tribal members in the region have been loyal Congress Party supporters but in the past few years, the charm has begun to fade and the party has not fared well in the elections.

New image

Mr Gandhi was named as a general secretary in the party last September, giving rise to speculation that the Congress is preparing for early elections.

The party has been under tremendous pressure in recent weeks from its left-wing allies who have been threatening to end their support unless the government shelves a controversial nuclear deal with the United States.

With talk of mid-term polls gaining momentum, some analysts say the party is keen to project a new youthful image.

Rahul Gandhi played a major role in Congress' campaigning in elections in India's biggest state, Uttar Pradesh, last year. But the party failed to reverse its declining fortunes there.

He was elected to the lower house of parliament from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh in the last general elections in 2004.

At present, he heads the youth and students' wing of the party.



SEE ALSO
Rahul Gandhi gets Congress post
24 Sep 07 |  South Asia
Profile: Rahul Gandhi
24 Sep 07 |  South Asia
Rahul Gandhi declines party role
23 Jan 06 |  South Asia
Gandhi name dominates again
19 May 04 |  South Asia

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