Profile: Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi, heir apparent of the powerful Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty which has dominated Indian politics for decades, faces his biggest political test in 2014.
India goes to the polls in parliamentary elections due by May and the ruling Congress Party looks set for an extremely tough race.
Appointed second in command of Congress, Mr Gandhi is charged with leading the party into these elections and managing its campaign.
But his task is immense after Congress was dealt a blow by poor results in state elections held in 2013. The party is also bearing the brunt of voter unhappiness over a slowing economy and a string of damaging corruption scandals.
Rahul Gandhi is often seen as a prime-minister-in-waiting but with the charismatic and populist BJP candidate Narendra Modi having declared his hand, Congress have refrained from naming Mr Gandhi as their prime ministerial candidate.
Although they insist they need not declare candidates before results are in, analysts say the move is aimed at protecting one of the party's main assets, in case the party loses.
Indeed many in the party ranks have long clamoured for a bigger role for Rahul Gandhi.Emerging from shadows
But there have also been questions about how eager Rahul Gandhi has been to embrace this role. Critics have often described him as the "reluctant prince" who has been the de facto number two for a long time, wielding the power, but shying away from responsibility.
Others point out that his campaigning in the most recent state elections failed to deliver the votes needed to make gains at the polls.
But in an audacious move last September Mr Gandhi stormed one of his own party's press conferences and denounced a move by the government to pass a bill which could have offered protection to convicted MPs.
It was a move that embarrassed the government - but amid concerns about his ability to command attention, it marked him out as campaigning for elections got under way.
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.
Although he turned down previous roles to take a prominent role in the party, 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 stubble to give himself more of a "man of the people" look.