Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi surprised party leaders and workers by turning up at the venue of an organisation building workshop on the Khanna-Samrala road on Friday.
Travelling by road from the Chandigarh airport, Rahul reached the spot, a resort located about 50km from Ludhiana city, around 11:30am and attended the workshop for almost two hours. He interacted with party workers individually and asked for suggestions to strengthen the Congress.
In stark contrast to Punjab's ministers who travel with a cavalcade of vehicles, Rahul arrived in a "beacon-less" Innova with just one pilot vehicle.
Friday's workshop marked the conclusion of Rahul's pilot project in Punjab. Previous workshops were held in his absence in Amritsar (April 16), Phagwara (April 17) and Bathinda (April 18). Rahul plans to hold these workshops across India.
During the workshop, the Congress vice-president urged party workers to give a "frank feedback" on issues such as seniority in the party cadre, educational qualifications of office-bearers and denial of party membership to individuals with a tainted past.
It is learnt that Rahul, instead of sitting on the dais, went to the party workers and leaders sitting at round tables and asked them to share their problems and give suggestions.
He asked a worker to show his membership-cum-identity card. Holding the card, Rahul said, "A driving licence empowers you to drive in any part of the country. But does the party's identity card empower you to exercise your rights as a member of Congress?"
Rahul also advocated Jakhar's suggestion that the Congress would initiate the registration of names of unemployed youths in the employment exchange and press the Akali-BJP government to fulfil its poll promise of giving monthly unemployment allowance.
Addressing the concern of district and block unit presidents about "lack of consent" during distribution of party tickets for the elections, Rahul promised to change the allotment system and enhance the say of grassroots leaders in framing of party polices and deciding ticket distribution in future elections.
The party leaders who attended the workshop included union minister of state for information and broadcasting and Ludhiana MP Manish Tewari, Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa, Leader of the Opposition Sunil Jakhar, MLAs, district/block unit presidents, former MLAs and ministers from the Malwa-1 region comprising the parliamentary constituencies of Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala and Anandpur Sahib.
Jakhar said Rahul approached the workers with openness and the latter responded with equal enthusiasm. The Congress vice-president not only listened to grievances of former office-bearers but also encouraged them to give suggestions to empower the party and its workers.
Workers who could not get an entry into the workshop venue waited patiently for a glimpse of Rahul Gandhi and rushed towards his Innova as soon as it started leaving the place. Clad in white-khadi kurta-pyjama, Rahul smiled, waved and greeted everyone with "Namaskar" before his departure.
Union minister of state for external affairs and member of Parliament (MP) from Patiala Preneet Kaur, Anandpur Sahib MP Ravneet Singh Bittu and Fatehgarh Sahib MP Sukhdev Singh Libra were present on the occasion.