Indian media discuss Priyanka Gandhi's political future

Priyanka Gandhi has been reluctant to take an official post in the ruling Congress party
Image caption Priyanka Gandhi has been reluctant to take an official post in the ruling Congress party

Media in India are reporting that Priyanka Gandhi, Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi's daughter, is "all set to play a bigger role" in the upcoming general elections.

Priyanka Gandhi has mostly stayed in the shadow of her brother Rahul, heir-apparent of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

But, reports said, she chaired a crucial Congress meeting in Delhi on Tuesday, sparking speculation in the media about her future in national politics.

"There has been speculation in recent months on whether Priyanka, who has so far confined her politics to campaign for her mother Sonia Gandhi in Raebareli (her constituency), would take a plunge into politics fulltime. Her participating in the meeting today fuelled further speculation," The Economic Times reports.

The Deccan Herald said "a section of the leadership felt that a larger role for Priyanka in the nationwide election campaign would benefit the Congress a great deal".

The Congress has recently suffered a crushing defeat in four key state elections and analysts feel giving Ms Gandhi a bigger role will help the party in the general elections.

The Mint website says her presence at the meeting signals "that she is preparing to take on a larger role in politics" and adds that the move will "consolidate the hold of the Gandhi family on the Congress".

Political analyst N Bhaskara Rao tells the paper that it is "natural" for Ms Gandhi to play "a more active role within the party".

"It is in response to larger public expectations. There is a feeling that Rahul Gandhi has not evoked as much response as was expected. Sonia Gandhi's poor health also forces Priyanka to give more backing to Rahul," he adds.

Buses as shelters

Meanwhile, two employees of Mata Chanan Devi Hospital in Delhi have been suspended on charges of negligence after the body of a newborn baby was found in a garbage bin, The Business Standard reports.

An editorial in Hindi daily Dainik Jagran says the issue is a "very serious one" which calls for an inquiry at "the highest level".

In some more news from Delhi, the state government has decided to turn discarded buses into night shelters for thousands of homeless people in the city, the NDTV website reports.

"These buses will be provided with blankets and other basic amenities so that the homeless can at least sleep properly," the report quotes a post on the governing Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) Facebook page.

The drive is part of the government's "outreach to the common man", the website says.

In business news, a panel set up by the central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, has suggested setting up specialised banks for low-income households to ensure that most citizens have a bank account by 2016, The Times of India reports.

"By 1 January 2016 each resident, above the age of 18, would have an individual, full-service, safe and secure electronic bank account," the report quoted the panel head, Nachiket Mor, as saying.

And finally, the number of male smokers has fallen in India, while the percentage of women who smoke has remained largely unchanged, a recent study shows as reported by The Times of India.

The "prevalence of smoking among Indian men fell from 33.8% in 1980 to 23% in 2012", a report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent global health research organisation, says.

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