India's Rahul Gandhi to lead Congress poll campaign

In this photograph taken on November 14, 2013, Congress Party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi walks as he pays his respects at Shantivana memorial for first Indian Prime Minister and his great grandfather Jawahar Lal Nehru in New Delhi. Rahul Gandhi may be spared being a losing candidate for PM if Congress does not win

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India's governing Congress Party has named Rahul Gandhi to lead its general election campaign this year.

But it stopped short of saying he would be its candidate for prime minister, as many had been expecting.

Party president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul's mother, said it was not party tradition to announce its candidate before elections, a spokesman told reporters.

Polls show the Congress party doing badly amid a slowing economy and a string of damaging corruption scandals.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) named Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi its candidate for PM last September.

Observers say Congress wants to avoid pitting its vice president in a presidential-style campaign against the charismatic but controversial Mr Modi.

"The Congress party president declared that the next election campaign will be led by Rahul Gandhi," said a senior party leader Janardan Dwidedi after a meeting of senior party members on Thursday evening.

He said "all the members" at the meeting had wanted Rahul to be named PM candidate "but the Congress president intervened", AFP news agency reported.

"She said: 'This is not the party's tradition. Just because some party has declared the PM candidate, does not mean that Congress will do the same'."

Correspondents say the Congress move appears aimed at protecting one of its main assets, in case the party loses the vote which is due by May.

Latest polls show the BJP extending its lead. The new anti-corruption Aam Admi Party presents a new threat.

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