System needs overhaul, role to youths in decisions: Rahul Lead)

Jaipur, Jan 20 (IANS) A complete overhaul of the system is needed as "young and impatient India" now demands "a greater role" in decision making, newly-appointed Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said Sunday in an impassioned speech outlining the need for his 127-year-old party to develop leadership and give prominence to grassroots workers.

Gandhi, 42, in his first speech after being made the party number two, also asked the party to respect the youths' demand for a greater role in decision-making.

"We don't need better systems, we need a complete transformation in the system, we need 40-50 leaders at the national level (anyone of whom can be prime minister) and seven to 10 at the state level (for chief minister)," Rahul Gandhi said while addressing over 1,200 delegates at the All India Congress Committee session here.

Gandhi, who heads the party's coordination panel, is expected to lead the party in the 2014 general elections.

"The job of the Congress is to create leaders for the country," he said adding that "no other party has so much depth".

But Gandhi also said there was no need to rush with change, which, he said, has to be backed by careful thought.

Gandhi, who was Saturday named the Congress vice president, making him officially the number two in the party after his mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, said his new responsibility was a big one and told party workers that he will treat all of them equally, will learn from their experiences but will only play a judge.

"It is a big responsibility. I will work for everybody from today but I will play the judge and not the lawyer," he said.

According to him, the time has come to question the "centralised, unaccountable system and decision making must shift from Delhi to the panchayats".

Gandhi said there is a "young and impatient India" which is now demanding "greater role" in decision making.

"Why do a handful of people control the entire political space," he asked, adding that "people with little understanding were sitting at high positions".

He said the youth was angry and feeling alienated with the existing system.

"Until we start to respect and empower people, we cannot change anything in this country... all are closed systems, designed for mediocrity, mediocrity dominates," he said.

Hinting at things to come, he also said that action will be taken against party deserters who become election rivals or fight as Independents.

Noting that "one cannot achieve anything without hope," he said "we should not chase power, we should use power to empower people."

Gandhi struck an emotional chord when he related how his mother and the Congress president had cried when she met him Saturday night.

"Last night, everyone congratulated me and hugged me. But last night, my mother came to my room and she sat near me and cried. Why did she cry.. she cried because she understands that the power that so many see is poison. She can see it because she is not attached to it (power)," he said.

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