The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Youth seek young Gandhis

New Delhi, Jan. 25: Buoyed by the announcement earlier this week that Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi are primary members of the Congress, youth leaders of the party in Uttar Pradesh today pressed for their participation in polls and in campaigning.

Armed with this resolution adopted at a meeting of block Youth Congress presidents from Uttar Pradesh at the Congress headquarters, a delegation met Sonia Gandhi in the evening and urged her to field daughter Priyanka and son Rahul in the parliamentary polls. The team was led by state Youth Congress chief Nadeem Ashraf Jaisi.

The Congress president did not speak her mind to the delegation, said Yugraj Badoria, a party leader from Uttar Pradesh. Nor did she say anything new on the issue when reporters sought her response to the resolution.

“My response is the same. I have been repeating that it is for Priyanka and Rahul to decide whether to join active politics or not. It will be better if you ask them,” Sonia said after a meeting with the chiefs of state-level party frontal organisations here.

She also met Maharashtra chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde amid reports that party legislators in the state now favour simultaneous Assembly and general elections.

Badoria, general secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Congress, said the formal announcement of Priyanka and Rahul joining the party has infused confidence in his colleagues. They should now campaign and contest in the elections to boost party prospects in the state, he said.

Some among the 800-odd youth leaders at the meeting favoured one of the Gandhi siblings taking on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Lucknow, while others believed the debut should be in Rae Bareli, the seat Indira Gandhi represented in the Lok Sabha.

The youth leaders adopted another resolution against any tie-up with the Samajwadi Party. “Mulayam (Singh Yadav) has betrayed the Congress many times in the past and his secular credentials are in doubt as he has entered into a secret understanding with the BJP,” said Baduria.

Asked whether they favoured an alliance with Mayavati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, Ashraf Jaisi said it was for the high command to decide. “All that we are saying is that the party should have no tie-up with the Samajwadi Party,” he said.

The meeting was part of the party central leadership’s efforts to inject dynamism into the moribund state Congress.

Separately, Sonia addressed the chiefs of the frontal organisations to prepare them for the poll challenge. They were told to counter the BJP’s “feel-good” campaign by raising the issue of growing unemployment.

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