New Delhi, Feb. 25: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi met chief ministers, Congress Legislature Party and PCC chiefs from the northeastern states this afternoon, possibly with an eye on the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
However, there were no representatives from Tripura and Nagaland, which are ruled by the Left Front and Naga People's Front (NPF) respectively and have shown a sorry scenario for the national party over the years.
Only leaders of Congress-ruled states, including chief ministers of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam and Manipur attended the three-hour meet at the party's "war room" on Rakabganj Road here.
The meeting comes within days of polling in Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland.
Rahul is known to have told state leaders that more and more party workers should be used in implementing central and state government schemes in the states. Sources said he pointed out that when NGOs and people in general are involved in implementation of government schemes, party workers could help expand the scope of these schemes to the grassroots.
"He wanted to know the problems of all the states and asked us to strengthen the party network," Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi told reporters after the meeting, hinting that the Congress expects the Congress-ruled states to contribute to the polls next year. In Assam, the Congress has seven of the 14 seats. The party has both seats in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, one in Meghalaya and Mizoram's lone seat. Tripura is with the CPM and Nagaland with the NPF.
The state leaders spoke of various problems like insurgency and financial weaknesses at the grassroots.
"Since this was an in-camera meeting, people were allowed to speak their mind. Rahulji spoke about how we can better the organisation and its structure in our states," Arunachal Pradesh PCC chief Mukut Mithi said.
Gogoi said Rahul gave a patient hearing to the leaders and spoke of the Congress's strengths. He had interacted with chief ministers of Congress-ruled states soon after taking over as the party vice-president, but a meeting with the leaders from the Northeast was deferred because of the Assembly polls.
The deferment did not count for Nagaland and Tripura as leaders expressed their inability to attend the meeting. In Nagaland, the reason offered by leaders was "repolling in eight polling stations". Neither PCC chief S.I. Jamir, who is facing a tough time listening to candidates' woes after polling, nor CLP leader Tokheho Yepthomi attended the meeting.
Some in Nagaland say the non-attendance was to express unhappiness. "The AICC abandoned (us) at the eleventh hour," said a senior leader who is toying with the idea of defecting to NPF. In Tripura, infighting has taken a toll on the party.
Those left were the Congress-ruled states. A confident Meghalaya chief minister, Mukul M. Sangma, attended the meet as did Gogoi, who registered a victory for the party in the recently held panchayat polls. Sangma is understood to have assured Rahul that the Congress was set to return to power in Meghalaya.
Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and Mizoram chief minister Lalthanhawla also spoke at the meeting that was attended by AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi.