Rahul Gandhi tells Congressmen to strengthen party

New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi Saturday urged state party leaders to meet people and workers to strengthen the party.

While summing up his two-day review meeting ahead of the assembly polls this year and the 2014 general elections, Rahul Gandhi gave leaders time-bound schedules to fill gaps in the party down to the block level.

He added that their performance would be reviewed and rewarded after two months.

The meeting in the national capital lasted over 13 hours Feb 15-16.

"All aspects of politics were discussed, including the challenges before the party's shortcomings," Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters after the meeting.

Rahul Gandhi had set the tone of the meeting Friday before 45 state leaders including chief ministers, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chiefs and Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leaders.

"I want to understand the ground realities. Express yourself freely," Rahul Gandhi said.

He heard suggestions from leaders, including greater publicity of central welfare programmes, increased interaction of central ministers with local leaders during state visits and that Rahul Gandhi should hear them more often.

"Rahul Gandhi said he will hold such meetings more often and he will tour the states," Dwivedi quoted Rahul Gandhi as saying.

Disconnect between the party and the government, lack of organisational strength and factional feuds have affected the Congress' prospects in many states.

Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kanti Lal Bhuria, who has the difficult task of keeping the state's leaders together, told reporters: "Ministers should find time for the party. They should inform PCC chiefs while visiting the state and meet the workers."

"We need to put our house in order to be counted as a national party," Uttar Pradesh PCC chief Nirmal Khatri told reporters after the meeting.

Uttar Pradesh CLP leader Pradeep Mathur said Rahul Gandhi took the issue of lack of "discipline" in the party seriously and asked the leaders to "stop fighting".

According to sources, besides organisational issues, performance of Congress-ruled states, challenges in states where the party is not in power and the impact of the government's flagship welfare schemes were also discussed during the two-day meeting.

"Rahul Gandhi told the leaders to improve coordination among various levels of the party," Dwivedi said.

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