M A I N   N E W S

Rahul wants larger role for young leaders
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

Rajiv Nagar, January 23
The Congress today witnessed the emergence of a new leader with the arrival of Rahul Gandhi on the political centre stage.

The party's heir-apparent announced his arrival at the ongoing AICC plenary session with his first major speech which dwelt essentially on three points: strengthening the Congress in the Northern belt, assigning a larger role to younger leaders in party affairs and giving greater recognition to the party's grassroots workers.

Perceived to be shy and reserved, Rahul Gandhi stole the show with his succinct and sharply-focused speech, which drew several rounds of applause from the restive cadres. The loudest cheer went up when young Gandhi struck an emotive note and declared that he always pointed to the Indian flag when asked what his religion was, adding that after his father's death, he had promised to work for the people that this flag represents.

The 20-minute speech, delivered in Hindi and English, however, failed to lift the veil of suspense over the demand for his induction into the Congress Working Committee, which reached a fever pitch during the last two days and subsided only after the cadres were assured that Rahul Gandhi would take the floor today. .

The young Lok Sabha MP from Amethi himself sent out confusing signals. On one hand, he gave a distinct impression that he is still not ready to take on a larger role in party affairs, stating that his place is “to learn, understand and be among the people." On the other, he said he will not disappoint them and will abide by the advise of his seniors.

The rank and file was, however, heartened when AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi, who is conducting the plenary, announced that Congress President Sonia Gandhi had taken note of their sentiments and will soon decide on their request.

For the rest, however, the cadres, especially the Uttar Pradesh unit, had sufficient reason to exult about as Rahul Gandhi put the spotlight firmly on the challenges facing the party in the Hindi heartland, which had been missing in the political resolution adopted yesterday.

Dwelling primarily on the Congress's steady erosion in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi urged the party to introspect as to how a state which was once its biggest strength had now become its biggest weakness. He disagreed with those who blamed this on the castiest and communal politics being practiced by some regional parties.

"I don't agree… we have become weak because we failed to work for the people and fulfill their aspirations," Rahul Gandhi said, adding that the party organisation had ceased to work effectively in these states. Continuing with his plain speak, the Gandhi scion said the party had declined as it had lost the ability to use the large number pool of foot soldiers. However, he stuck a note of warning, stating that there were no quick solutions, "no fast track to success" as true leaders have to be created and nurtured over a period of time.

In this context, he appealed to the workers to "move away from the corridors of power and into the battlefield ….into villages, towns, mohallas, universities and colleges" in order to mingle with the people and understand their problems. "Let us become leaders through listening, learning and working ," he told the workers , making it clear that they cannot depend on the Gandhi family alone for the party's revival and they also have to play a more proactive role in this task.

Listing out the party's inherent strengths which can be used to rebuild the organisation, , Rahul Gandhi said it has experience and a capable team in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi who make them all proud.

In addition, the oldest party is also the youngest as it has the largest number of young people and the most modern thinking as compared to other political parties. Above all, the Congress has a large cadre of grassroots workers who, he said, are the party's backbone.


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