Rahul Gandhi feels that the future belongs to Congress if it makes efforts to bring up new leadership at various levels as absence of leaders in 40-50 age group is a "big handicap".
He says that Congress need not be diffident given the fact that its flagship programmes have created a groundswell of goodwill and the opposition has "no answer" for that. After Rajiv Gandhi's assassniation, there was a gap from 1991 to 1998 to bring up new leaders which is affecting the Congress now. It is a "big handicap", the young leader is understood to have told partymen during a long interaction in New Delhi.
The partymen said that Rahul told them that the response the Congress was getting now in Uttar Pradesh and the success it got in the state was proof enough that the party's basic vote was intact so also its sympathisers.
"Benibabu told me that I don't know how difficult it is to fight with Congress", Gandhi told a group of MPs and Ministers.
He was apparently referring to union minister Beni Prasad Verma, who was till recently a close associate of Mulayam Singh Yadav in Samajwadi Party. "The Congress committed suicide in Uttar Pradesh by giving 300 seats to the BSP during the Assembly elections in the nineties.
Even after that our 10% vote has been in tact", he said adding that this showed the tremendous goodwill enjoyed by the party among the people. Gandhi, who has been vigorously touring poll-bound UP, said that he often sees the goodwill but gets complaints that "people are ready to vote for us, but our leaders are not visiting them".
This, Gandhi feels, meant that if the party leaders chose to live in cities and ignored the countryside and did not remain in touch with rural people, the Congress would suffer. With governance becoming a complex task, there could also be need of a advisory councils of expert at the state level to help and advise the chief ministers, he told a union minister.
The minister's contention earlier was that the chief ministers are heavily dependent on the bureaucrats who have been running the show in several states.
One Congress leader said that Gandhi spoke of the problems being faced by Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav to run the state for want of a vision and lack of understanding of the complexities of governance.
Uttar Pradesh is not an ordinary state as the state's finances are "bigger than the Tatas", he said. At the same time, both Maya and Mulayam look after their communities well, Gandhi is understood to have said.
Gandhi, an eligible bachelor, gets upto 3,000 e-mails daily with some of them containing marriage proposals, said a leader who was also involved in the interaction.
Some e-mails are for requesting him "to make me chief minister" of some Congress-ruled state or the other, Gandhi said adding that some 20 to 30 "useful" emails are presented to him in printed form.
He also agreed with a former Punjab PCC chief that the state units should consult former heads too.