NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's Rahul Gandhi said Tuesday he was open to leading the ruling Congress party into elections this year, in his strongest hint yet that he is ready to be named as prime ministerial candidate.
The 43-year-old scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, which has dominated India's post-independence politics, is typically evasive when asked about his future plans and role.
But in a rare interview granted to the Hindi-language Dainik Bhaskar newspaper, he indicated he was ready to bow to pressure within his party to project him formally as a leader-in-waiting.
"Just as at present, I will take up whatever responsibility is given to me by my party in the future and do it diligently to the best of my abilities," he said.
His comments come only days before a meeting on Friday of the top leaders in Congress where he is tipped to be named as their PM nominee for national elections, which must be held by May.
Congress is lagging badly in the polls after two terms in power due to a resurgent Hindu nationalist Bharitiya Janata Party (BJP) and the upstart anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Mr Gandhi, widely portrayed as a reluctant leader whose refusal of the political spotlight has frustrated colleagues, maintains a low profile in and outside of Parliament, where he is an MP.
He dismissed the charge that he hesitated to take responsibility and was asked about his comment in January 2013 when he described power as "poison".
"Power is poison doesn't mean that I am not keen to take responsibility. I don't have the word 'reluctance' in my life," he said.
Mr Gandhi's father, grandmother and great-grandfather were all prime ministers of India, while his Italian-born mother is the current president of the Congress party.
His main opponent as prime ministerial candidate would be BJP leader Narendra Modi, a business-friendly reformist from the western state of Gujarat whose links to anti-Muslim riots in 2002 remain controversial.
Mr Gandhi also ruled out any significant role for his younger sister Priyanka, who is reported to have attended recent party meetings.
"As an active Congress worker she is helping me strengthen the party. But I don't think she will have any electoral role," he said.