Gandhi, who reached an airstrip in Sambalpur – about 320 km west of Bhubaneswar – by a private plane from New Delhi at about 1 pm, was received by senior state Congress leaders including president Niranjan Patnaik, but preferred to interact with hundreds of grassroots party workers of three western Odisha districts Sundargarh, Sambalpur and Deogarh for more than five hours to get a feel of the ground situation.
“The focus was mainly on the strength and weaknesses of the organisation and steps needed to be taken to further strengthen the party,” said senior party leader and spokesperson Narasingha Mishra.
Gandhi listened to the suggestions of the party workers including district, block and panchayat level functionaries and panchayati raj representatives but did not make any observations in the workers meet where media was not allowed.
Grassroots workers complained to Gandhi about infighting in the party and alleged top leaders did not touch base with grassroots. However, what worried them most was the leaders were silent to the allegations of corruption and misappropriation of central fund against the BJD government, especially chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
Most suggested that the party must resort to vibrant mass based agitational programmes to revive its fortunes in the next assembly elections in 2014.
Gandhi will interact with lower level party workers in Cuttack on Tuesday.