Seeking to gauge his party's strength and weakness in Odisha ahead of next general election, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi Monday wanted partymen to make people aware of various development and welfare schemes undertaken by the United Progressive Alliance government.
Starting his two-day Odisha visit from Sambalpur, Rahul interacted with party functionaries at the district, block and panchayat levels in marathon sessions, seen as an exercise to cement cracks among leaders and end groupism in order to rejuvenate Congress as a cohesive outfit.
"He wanted to know as to why Congress has become so weak in Odisha," said a senior party leader after a session with Rahul, who is visiting Odisha for the first time after being elevated as AICC's second in command.
"He (Rahul) emphasised on the need to make common people aware of different welfare schemes and developmental programmes taken up by the Centre in Odisha. He sought to know whether partymen are informing people about these," said another leader from western Odisha after meeting Rahul.
Though the Amethi MP arrived in Sambalpur about three hours behind schedule due to bad weather, he quickly made up and tried to find out whether selection of candidates for the 2009 elections had been done properly, he said.
"The purpose is to exchange ideas with those party leaders who cannot go to Delhi to express their views on how to strengthen the party," said AICC Odisha in-charge Jagdish Tytler, as state leaders hoped Rahul would bring a turnaround in Congress prospects.
The focus during Rahul's interactions with leaders, party office bearers and MLAs from 17 organisational districts was on taking partymen closer to the masses, sources said.
The visit of Rahul, who will be in Cuttack tomorrow, is seen as an exercise aimed at gearing up the party for the polls as Congress has been out of power in Odisha since 2000.
A tight security net was thrown around the venue and the deliberations were not open to media.