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Rahul Gandhi, India's 'leader in waiting', meets his people

Rahul Gandhi, the 41-year-old great-grandson of India's first ever prime minister, set out on a march through western Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, seemingly determined to align himself with the country's rural poor.

Gandhi offered his support to villagers involved in land disputes with the state government, according to a breathless report in The Times of India that described him "effortlessly jumping over mud pools" in his trek from village to village.

AP

India's ruling Congress party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, right, interacts with villagers during his 'Kisan Sandesh Yatra' or Farmers Message Campaign in Ahladpur, in the opposition-ruled state of Uttar Pradesh on July 6.

Pankaj Nangia / AP

Rahul Gandhi, front, visits Nangla Bhatana village in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, some 50 miles east of New Delhi, on July 5.

Gandhi has long been tipped as a future leader of the world's biggest democracy. "The son of Congress party president Sonia Gandhi and heir to a dynasty that has ruled independent India for almost four decades of its 64-year history, the premiership isn't just Rahul's for the taking, it's almost his birthright," Reuters reported last week.

In May, he was briefly arrested after he joined farmers protesting against land being taken over for a $2 billion highway. Reuters reported:

Ahead of a 2014 general election, Gandhi's Congress party is increasingly taking the side of farmers and others whose lands have been taken over for the highways, utilities and factories needed to power India's near 9 percent growth.

Read a 2010 profile of 'The Mysterious Mr Gandhi' in The Economist.