Rahul Gandhi gives rare interview in bid to appear approachable before polls

Scion of India's most famous political dynasty says he has no immediate plans to marry and reveals dislike of Hollywood films

Rahul Gandhi, the scion of India's most famous and powerful political dynasty, has revealed a dislike of Hollywood films, a taste for non-fiction books, and no immediate plans to marry.

Gandhi, who is currently leading the campaign of the beleaguered ruling Congress party to win a third term in power at elections due to start next month, has only given a handful of interviews in recent years. The 43-year-old, who is single and childless, has rarely commented on his personal life.

But in an interview with the Press Trust of India, the former management consultant said: "When I find the right girl, I will get married … Right now I am engaged in fighting the elections. Unfortunately I have not been focused on [my] private life."

Gandhi, who has a reputation as being fonder of theoretical thinking than the bruising day-to-day tussle of politics in the world's second most populous country, said he was a keen reader though his literary diet included "too much non-fiction" and "too much about things related to my work … history, geography, political affairs … a lot about the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China".

With only weeks to go before voting starts, the Congress party is struggling to make a dent in the apparent dominance of the main opposition candidate: 63-year-old Narendra Modi, from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party.

The Congress-led government has been battered by a series of corruption scandals,soaring prices of basic foodstuffs and a flagging economy. Furthermore, Gandhi has so far been unable to evolve a coherent and effective message to counter an impression of inexperience.

However, Modi, who has been chief minister of the western state of Gujarat for 13 years, is seen as authoritarian and is blamed by many for failing to protect Muslims during sectarian rioting there in 2002 that left more than 1,000 people dead.

Gandhi, who is the son, grandson and great-grandson of prime ministers of India, has struggled in media interactions.

In January he gave his first television interview in his decade-long career as a professional politician, but his performance in the 90-minute broadcast was widely seen as disappointing. He told viewers he was not driven by a desire for power and that the multiple tragedies suffered by his family have hardened him to personal loss. His father Rajiv and grandmother Indira were both assassinated.

This new interview may be an attempt to show a more approachable, human side.

Described as a "pet-lover" in the piece, Gandhi said he did not watch as many local-language movies as his sister Priyanka and was often disappointed with mainstream Hollywood releases.

The Cambridge University graduate also said he had no favourite actors, though he appreciated "a good performance".

The statement may bewilder hundreds of millions of people in a country where Bollywood stars attract a fanatical following.


Jason Burke in Delhi

The GuardianTramp

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