The ruling Congress party in Maharashtra is seeking party general secretary Rahul Gandhi's help to take on Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray in order to consolidate its position by luring youths in the party organisation.
Raj, who faces over 80 cases in different courts across the country for his violent campaign against migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, enjoys popularity among the youth and the middle class.
MNS had won 13 assembly seats but could not open its account in the Lok Sabha elections. Besides, the party believes that Rahul can also take on Shiv Sena, which is stepping up its 'son of the soil' campaign.
Rahul, who silenced his critics, primarily the Shiv Sena, by travelling in Mumbai suburban trains during his whirlwind trip on February 5, has agreed to address party workshops during May 13-16 at Mahabaleshwar in west Maharashtra.
The Congress general secretary, who has been on a nation-wide membership drive through elections, has agreed to address the participants -- largely youths from various districts of Maharashtra -- during the workshop.
Rahul is expected to share his views on the challenges before India and the Congress party's role. Besides, he would seek participants' views on the future of the party.
The Congress plans to organise more such meetings to be addressed by Rahul in the days to come keeping an eye on the elections to the Mumbai and Thane civic bodies scheduled in 2012.
Manikrao Thakre, the state party president, told Business Standard, "The proposed exercise is to reach out to the youth. We believe the youth can open up and share their views with Rahul who has engaged himself in similar interactions across the country."
Incidentally, party insiders say that Rahul is the best bet to attract the youth which otherwise are being lured by Raj Thackeray. A senior party leader, who did not want to be identified, said, "Even though the party is sharing power with its decade old electoral ally Nationalist Congress Party, the latter does not leave a single opportunity to score browny points."
"There is a consensus among party members that Gandhi's involvement is essential to encourage the young leadership for taking a centre stage. Congress party has outperformed NCP by emerging as the single largest party in the state legislature and also by wining more Lok Sabha seats but it still lacks substantial presence in local self government and civic bodies."
It is believed that Rahul was instrumental in the victory of youth candidates, including Rajeev Satav, Nilesh Parwekar, Yashomati Thakur, Prashant Thakur in the state assembly. Interestingly, Rahul broke his own rule to elect the office bearers of the party and appointed Satav as the president of the All India Youth Congress.