Rahul Gandhi, who has launched an initiative to elicit the views of a cross section of people for inputs to draft Congress manifesto, was interacting with party's local body representatives, pradhans, NGOs and bureaucrats at the Mahatma Gandhi's ashram here.
"50 per cent of India are women. India can only be half strong, half proud, half powerful if we don't empower this 50 per cent. It can be only a half super power.
"If we cannot offer jobs to our crore of youth in a systematic way, if we cannot empower our pradhans, MPs, MLAs and other elected representatives, our country cannot be a super power," he said during a town hall-style interaction.
Strongly advocating decentralisation of the process of selection of candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections by parties to include grassroots-level public representatives, Rahul Gandhi said, "Today, in our party and BJP, 5-7 people decide all candidates. This lies in the root of corruption. The day we include the people in the process, 50 per cent of corruption will be gone."
"Today, the pradhans, MPs, MLAs don't have the powers that comes with their position. Our representatives in local bodies have no voice in the selection of candidates who contest Vidhan Sabha and parliamentary elections. I assure you, I will ensure their voice is heard. I promise you I will do it cent per cent," he said.
Rahul Gandhi was responding to a participant who said local bodies representatives had no say in deciding the programmes and policies and in selection of candidates as "we have no identity".
The Congress vice president said, in a novel initiative, he has decided to select candidates for 15 Lok Sabha seats in consultation with representatives of local bodies, district and block-level workers "and their decision will be final".
"... This is a very big step and people will realise this later. We will continue taking such steps in the future, we will not stop," he said.
Rahul Gandhi said the very purpose of the exercise launched by him was to involve the people in the decision-making process.
"I have some ideas, these are the ideas of an individual. Unless we ask women, the youth, what they want, the ideas of an individual have little meaning," he said.
His conversation elicited some interesting suggestions from the participants who came from diverse places, from Rajasthan to Kerala and the northeast.
While all backed 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies, a woman participant from Kerala suggested creation of a National Rural Technology Mission as a tool for empowerment of the rural population under which Internet connectivity should be provided at subsidised rates.
Another woman participant from Rajasthan came out with a suggestion to involve those in government in party work too so they stay in touch with ground realities, and called for a minimum educational qualification for elected representatives for enhanced work efficiency.
A representative from a northeastern state suggested inclusion of Right to Shelter in the manifesto, while another called for a government-funded insurance scheme for children who could redeem it after passing out from school and use it for higher education or self-employment.