Rahul Gandhi, great-grandson of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, has filed his nomination to contest national polls, marking the entry of a new generation of the charismatic Gandhi dynasty into mainstream politics.
A grinning Gandhi filed his papers to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections on behalf of the dynasty's main opposition Congress party from the family borough of Amethi in northern India.
The 33-year-old financial consultant, accompanied by younger sister Priyanka, and mother Sonia Gandhi who inherited the 119-year-old Congress after the 1991 assassination of her husband and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, drove into Amethi to cheers from thousands of followers.
Supporters danced and burst fire crackers while commandos and police formed a ring around Rahul and Priyanka as they rode on top of a car to the administrative block of Sultanpur.
Once in Sultanpur, Gandhi filed papers which would qualify him to contest the elections to parliament's 545-seat lower house which will be held in five stages starting on 20 April.
"The prime reason for his induction is the party's desperation"
analyst, New Delhi
Party supporters showered rose petals and rained coloured powder in a mark of respect as Sonia Gandhi, wearing an Indian sari, covered her head in a traditional Hindu gesture of respect to elders.
The Congress party, which according to surveys is trailing India's ruling Hindu nationalists in popularity, hopes the entry of the young Gandhi will jack up its electoral equity in the elections.
The 57-year-old Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to file her own nomination on Tuesday from the nearby constituency of Rae Bareli, a favourite bastion of her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi until her assassination by Sikh bodyguards in 1984.
Analysts say Rahul's selection of Amethi is a strategic ploy by the Congress.
"The prime reason for his induction is the party's desperation," said political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan in New Delhi.