Rahul discusses poll strategy with state leaders

Sambalpur: To bolster his party's prospects in Odisha in next elections, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Monday discussed strategies to regain power in the state and norms for selection of poll candidates.

"The focus of Rahul's discussions with state leaders was on strengthening the party in Odisha. He held seven-hour-long marathon interaction with functionaries of 17 organisational districts," AICC General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed told reporters.

He said the Amethi MP took feed back from grassroot level leaders and discussed criteria for selection of candidates and sought opinions of partymen in this regard.

Strategies for winning the next general elections were also discussed. Rahul sought suggestions from party functionaries on steps required to be taken to bolster the poll prospects of Congress, he said.

As Rahul kicked off his two-day visit to the state, where Congress has been out of power since year 2000, some 1,500 party functionaries including 300 women met him in this city of western Odisha, considered to be a traditional Congress stronghold.

"Rahulji received a lot of feedback from state leaders during meetings at Sambalpur. The process will continue tomorrow at Cuttack … all these will be analysed and future strategy chalked out," Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Niranjan Patnaik said.

Rahul, who is visiting Odisha for first time after being elevated as AICC's second in command, sought to gauge party's strength and weakness in Odisha ahead of next election, said a senior leader after meeting Rahul.

"Rahulji wanted to know as to why Congress has become so weak in Odisha. We discussed steps needed to rejuvenate the party," he said.

Rahul interacted with party functionaries at the district, block and panchayat levels in marathon sessions, seen as an exercise to cement cracks among leaders and end groupism in order to rejuvenate Congress as a cohesive outfit.

"He (Rahul) emphasised on the need to make common people aware of different welfare schemes and development programmes taken up by the Centre in Odisha. He sought to know whether partymen are informing people about these," said another leader.