NEW DELHI (AFP) - Only 14 per cent of voters believe Rahul Gandhi would make the best prime minister for India, a survey found on Thursday, just days after his endorsement by outgoing Congress Premier Manmohan Singh.
The survey for The Times of India found 58 per cent of respondents want Mr Narendra Modi, the candidate of the main nationalist opposition party in this year's general election, to be the next prime minister while 25 per cent opted for the anti-corruption champion Arvind Kejriwal.
The poll makes grim reading for the ruling Congress party, which had been hoping that the youthful Gandhi would significantly increase its apparently slim chances of victory in the election due by May.
Mr Gandhi, 43, is expected to be named at a party meeting on Jan 17 as Congress' candidate for premier after the 81-year-old Dr Singh confirmed last Friday that he would step down after the polls.
In a rare press conference, Dr Singh said that Mr Gandhi - whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as prime minister - has "outstanding credentials" to lead the world's largest democracy.
But Thursday's survey, which was conducted among voters in India's eight largest cities, highlighted the media-shy bachelor's failure to connect with voters already dismayed by a sharp slowdown in the economy and a series of corruption scandals on Dr Singh's watch.
While respondents were not directly asked which party they would vote for, the survey showed that 81 per cent of voters want Mr Kejriwal's fledgling Aam Aadmi party to contest all the seats.
Mr Kejriwal was installed as chief minister of Delhi last month after Aam Aadmi's stunning showing in a state election there, in which Congress saw its number of seats fall from 43 to just eight.
Senior figures in his party have said Aam Aadmi would contest most of the seats at the general election although it faces a huge task to raise money and identify candidates.
The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the overwhelming favourite to win most seats. Mr Modi, the right-wing Chief Minister of Gujarat state, was chosen last September as its candidate for prime minister.
No party is expected however to win a majority in Parliament, with regional factions likely to hold the balance of power.