Rahul Gandhi to now interact with state leaders

After a free and frank exchange of views at his first three-day formal interaction with AICC office bearers, Rahul Gandhi will be holding similar exercises with state level leaders soon.

Sources in the party said it has been decided that the exercise will be carried out but details are yet to be chalked out.

At the concluding day of the three-day interaction at the AICC, Gandhi, who was anointed as Number 2 in the Congress during party's Chintan Shivir in Jaipur almost a fortnight back, had expressed his keenness to have such discussions from

block to state level.

"Rahul Gandhi said he desires to hold such meetings even at state level and if possible even with party workers at district and block level. As and when a programme is finalised, you will be informed," party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi had told reporters yesterday.

There is a likelihood that the states going for Assembly elections this year will be the first on Gandhi's list. A number of states including key ones like Delhi, Karantaka,Rajashtan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are going to polls this year.

It is still to be decided whether Gandhi will interact with the leaders in the respective states or they will be asked to come to the national capital for it

The first formal interaction of Gandhi at the AICC saw Gandhi giving a message of strict adherence to rules with clear demarcation of responsibilities and his keenness to bring steady changes in the functioning of the party.

"His focus was on institutional changes much more than on change of individuals only. He wants to bring in a system, which ensures that the party functions as per the rulebook everybody gets responsibilities," a participant said.

Gandhi also managed to give an impression that he wanted serious business and that "performance and not proximity will decide a leader's growth in the organisation", the sources said.

However, there is also a feeling that the exercise has begun late when only a little more than one year is left for general elections and only few months for assembly polls as Congress faces a host of challenges.

"He means business and believes in a system to do things. That will definitely have its positive impact. But the time is short. Had he taken charge earlier and such exercises begun one year back, results would have been very different," said a leader, who participated in the deliberations.

During the interactions, Gandhi gave an impression that he wanted a candid view of where the party actually stands, said an AICC secretary who also recalled "this was first such major exercise in which party leaders working at different

levels in the organisation had a free wheeling discussion."

He said that initially the participants were hesitant to raise unpleasant questions. However, as Gandhi told them to talk freely and fearlessly, a wide range of issues including anomalies in ticket distribution, lack of coordination and non-allocation of works to juniors came up.

There were also complaints that some of the Chief Ministers go to any extent to ensure that any other potential person does not rise in the party and win elections.

There are expectations that Gandhi will take steps to "free the party from the grip of few" and ensure "greater representation to non-elites" both at the Centre and in

states, a leader said.

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