Profile: Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi has officially been promoted to the number two position in India's ruling Congress party, making it clear that he remains the heir apparent of the powerful Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty.
Mr Gandhi, who was appointed as the party's vice-president at a conclave on 20 January, said he would work to transform the country by "decentralising" power.
Despite the Congress faring badly in last year's state elections, there has been clamour from within the party ranks for a larger role for Mr Gandhi.
The Gandhi scion had campaigned extensively in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh ahead of the 2012 elections, but his party came a disappointing fourth as votes were counted.
In the western state of Gujarat too, he addressed a few election rallies, but the party did not make any significant gains at the polls.
But, Mr Gandhi is still considered by many to be a prime minister in waiting.
Analysts say he is the most likely person to replace the current ageing PM Manmohan Singh as the party's candidate in the 2014 elections.Own man
The son of murdered former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his Italian-born widow, Sonia, Rahul has been steadily building up his own political profile as he strives to emerge from his parents' shadow.
He was born on 19 June 1970 and went to the finest Indian schools, going on to study economics in the US and work in London before returning to work in Mumbai in 2002.
Rahul was seen as a shy man whose interests lay more in cricket matches and the outdoors than in political life.
His charismatic and popular sister Priyanka was thought to be more likely to take over the family's mantle of power.
His decision to enter formal politics before the 2004 general election therefore took many by surprise.
That year, Mr Gandhi stood for parliament and won the traditional family constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, which his father had once held.
In September 2007 Rahul was named as the party's secretary general, with his mother Sonia remaining as president.
He represents the fourth generation of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has led the Congress party, and India, for much of the time since independence from Britain in 1947.
His grandmother, Indira, was another prime minister, also assassinated, while his great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was independent India's first leader.'Backroom operator'
Why Rahul, rather than Priyanka, answered the party's call for a new generation of Gandhis is still not fully clear.
Many within the Congress party saw his move into politics as positive, although the decision was seen by some to highlight the party's lack of alternatives and its continuing reliance on the Nehru-Gandhi family for leadership and direction.
Whatever the concerns, expectations were high that he would play a major role in the government and the party.
Despite his "dark horse" image, he is said by some analysts to have a detailed political knowledge and to be a practised backroom operator.
In January 2006, he turned down appeals to play a more high-profile Congress party role.
"My place right now is among our people, my place right now is to learn and understand so I can serve my people and party better," he said.
But by 2008 he had kicked off a campaign called the "discovery of India", aimed at winning over hearts and minds and projecting himself as a future leader.
In his campaigning in Uttar Pradesh in the 2012 state elections, he addressed more than 200 rallies, slept in villagers' huts and even grew a stubble to give himself more of a "man of the people" look.'Reluctant prince'
Mr Gandhi's campaign in the state was seen by commentators as an attempt to cement his reputation as a viable prime-ministerial candidate.
With his appointment as vice president, the Congress is hoping to energise its rank and file as the party prepares for the general elections due before the summer of 2014.
Critics have often described him as the "reluctant prince" who has been the de facto number two in the party for long, wielding the power, but shying away from responsibility.
But he takes over at a time when the Congress party-led government has been battling charges of policy paralysis and facing middle-class anger over corruption and the issue of the recent gangrape and murder of a student in Delhi.
Analysts say with the confirmation of his status as the number two in the party hierarchy, the Gandhi scion will now have to seen to be taking responsibility and lead the party from the front.