Courtesy Reuters

The Grooming of Rahul Gandhi

Is the Untested Scion of the Gandhi Dynasty Ready to Rule the World’s Largest Democracy?

The problems besieging Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are legion. Several key players in his United Progressive Alliance coalition are embroiled in high-profile corruption scandals. Despite hiking interest rates repeatedly, his government cannot contain runaway inflation, which now tops ten percent. And terrorists have struck New Delhi twice this year, killing dozens and giving ordinary Indians the impression that their government can't keep them safe. On top of all this, Singh seems to have little fight left in him: at 79 years old, he is reportedly exhausted by the challenges of maintaining unity over a fractious coalition and of administering even the most rudimentary elements of India's relationship with its neighbors.

This would seem to be the ideal moment for the opposition to pounce. But so far, at least, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has offered no viable alternatives. Instead, the BJP has tended to stick to the sidelines and carp about Singh's shortcomings. The party seems adrift: L. K. Advani, the BJP stalwart and former deputy prime minister, recently said that he has no interest in serving as prime minister, and Narendra Modi -- chief minister of Gujarat and a possible contender for party leader -- is unlikely to draw a national following because of his alleged involvement in an anti-Muslim pogrom that occurred under his watch almost a decade ago.

The country, frustrated with Singh's ineffectiveness, is looking to the leader who will take Singh's place when he finishes his term in two years, and they are turning toward Rahul Gandhi. Gandhi is the son of Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Party's reclusive leader and the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, the former prime minister who was assassinated in 1991. (Rajiv himself was the son of Indira Gandhi, who was killed in 1984.) Since 2004, Rahul, who studied at Harvard and at Trinity College, Cambridge, has been tailored for higher office by Congress Party grandees. But Rahul, 41, is untested and rough around the edges: though he assumed the position of a general secretary of

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