In a speech clamoured for by Congressmen from across the country at the AICC session in New Delhi, party's heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the Congress should be relevant to a broad range of young Indians and become "meritocratic" in which progress is linked to performance along with accountability.
Making his debut at the AICC session after becoming General Secretary on a day when speakers starting from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to others praised him, he made a passionate appeal to the youth to join the Congress to build institutions worthy of their dreams and capabilities.
In a short speech that was lustily cheered by the gathering of Congress members that included his mother and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Singh and Union Ministers, chief ministers and leaders from various parts of the country, the 37-year-old leader said wherever he went in his recent tours, he was asked two questions by the youth and members of the NSUI and Youth Congress.
The non-party youth wanted to know how they could join politics and serve the country, while the party youth asked him "how do we progress in our organisation".
"These two questions touch the heart," he said.
Answering the questions himself, Rahul said, "If we are to truly become an organisation that represents the youth of our country, if we are to truly develop leaders whom this nation can be proud of, we need to do two things."
"The first is to build an organisation that is open and relevant to a broad range of Indians who believe in our values and seek to serve the nation."
"The second is to build a meritocratic organisation. Young people bring tremendous passion and energy into our organisation. We must see to it that they are accountable. It is our duty to ensure that their progress is linked to their performance."
Throughout the day, the speakers at the session unfailingly referred to Rahul as the future hope of the party and wanted him to be entrusted with greater responsibilities.
The Prime Minister was effusive in his praise of Rahul when he said he was confident that "young leaders of the party like him can win the minds and affections of our youth and take the Congress party and the nation to new frontiers and new heights of glory".
A large number of party members also expressed concern over reports of a militant plot to kidnap Rahul that was unveiled in Lucknow on Friday.
They were silenced for some time after party General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi assured them that the young leader would make his speech at around 2 pm.
After 2 pm, they were restless with everyone taking the stage and virtually forcing Rahul to address them.
At one point of time, when a woman leader from Orissa held the mike but could not speak as there was a loud clamour by the party members for Rahul to make his speech, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had to intervene. Gandhi pleaded that the woman member be allowed to speak and they obliged.
Rahul made a brief 10-minute speech, first in Hindi and then in English that outlined his vision for the party and his political thought.
He was welcomed with a huge garland by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and DPCC President JP Aggarwal, who presented a photograph of Rajiv Gandhi to him.