Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi Friday called for empowering women, youth and representatives of local bodies if India wanted to achieve superpower status.
"Fifty percent of India's population comprises women and the country can only be half strong, half powerful, half proud and half a superpower if they are not empowered," he declared.
Gandhi was addressing Congress local body representatives as part of his pre-election confabulations with a cross-section of the society at Sewagram, home to Mahatma Gandhi's ashram here.
He added that if the crores of youth are not given jobs and if the chiefs offlocal bodies, parliamentarians and legislators are not empowered, the country cannot become a superpower.
Reiterating his philosophy of decentralisation, Gandhi said political parties need to include public representatives from the grassroots level in selecting candidates for the Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
"Now, in the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, five or seven people decide on all the candidates wherein lies the root of corruption. Once we include the people in this process, 50 percent of the corruption will go," Gandhi said.
He added that currently, village heads, MPs and MLAs do not have the power that comes with their positions and elected representatives in local bodies have no say in the selection of candidates contesting assembly or parliamentary elections.
"I will ensure that their voice is heard... I promise that I will do it cent percent," he assured the gathering.
Gandhi said that in the coming Lok Sabha elections, he will select candidates for 15 seats in consultation with the representatives of local bodies right down to the block level and their decision would be final.
"This is a novel initiative and a very big step... We will continue taking such steps in the future," he declared before the gathering of representatives from across the country, including the northeastern states.
Gandhi admitted that whenever the issue of devolution of power and 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Panchayati Raj Act are discussed, people mostly complain they are not given power.
"It is true that leaders of local bodies are not consulted -- they need to have an identity in the party. At least, the Congress will do this in the near future," Gandhi said.
Present at the day-long meeting were senior party leaders from the centre and states, including All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra affairs Mohan Prakash and state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre.