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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Home truths dawn on Rahul

Gorakhpur, March 5: Rahul Gandhi landed here today fresh and full of ideas to recharge the batteries of the Congress's youth brigade. But before he could get cracking, a group of rebels temporarily derailed his plans.

'The aides of Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Salman Khursheed are restricting core leaders (from attending the programme) and indulging in factionalism,' screamed a group of about 500 leaders who staged a demonstration in front of Diksha Bhavan on the Gorakhpur University campus where Rahul was slated to hold the session.

Having got a taste of the infighting plaguing the unit he had set out to enthuse and calmed frayed tempers, Rahul took charge of the youth leadership development session, his second after the Chitrakoot camp in Madhya Pradesh two months ago.

'Throw away your safety nets and reach out to the remotest areas to understand people's problems. Revive the local units at the block and village levels,' he said, egging on the 300-odd youth leaders from east Uttar Pradesh to prime themselves for the battle to regain lost ground.

Interacting on a one-to-one basis with the leaders who had converged from six districts, Rahul said it was time they motivated themselves to 'recharge the sleeping Congress base in this part of Uttar Pradesh'.

Moving around freely among the leaders, who were split into 10 groups, Rahul said the effort should be to build on the Congress's performance in last May's general elections. If they tried hard enough, they would be able to help the party perform creditably, he said.

'People have begun to repose faith in the party in the region. It is the turn of the young workers here to build up a proportionate level of self-confidence,' he said, prodding each group to develop its own strategy to revive the party organisation.

Uttar Pradesh unit chief Khursheed said Rahul's intentions were clear. 'The broad message is change. And the battle for that has begun but we have to go a long away,' he said.

Most of the young leaders were enthusiastic and attentive and chipped in during the session. One Swaroop Pathak from Sonebhadra drew Rahul's attention to the growing Naxalite problem in the region.

Another young leader, Shahid Saleem, whose father was killed in Benaras last November, said the deteriorating law and order was a problem.

'I'm not the lone victim and I don't worry about my personal tragedy only. There are many who feel insecure because of criminals' growing clout and political links,' he said.

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