It is a paradox that in a democratic country like India, political parties do not choose their leaders in a democratic manner, All India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi has said.

“We are a fully democratic country but we don’t have a single democratic party, including my party,” he said while interacting with students of Pondicherry University here on Friday. In the hour-long interaction after inaugurating a cricket stadium named after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on the university campus, the Amethi MP exhorted students to be politically aware.

“If not joining politics, at the minimum you should be politically aware and be acquainted with political developments,” he said. Further dwelling on his plan to involve youth in political affairs, he said: “It was with the aim to democratise the functioning of Congress youth organisations that I started internal elections in Youth Congress.”

The Youth Congress internal elections in Punjab and Kerala were appreciated even by political opponents, he said.

Asked whether a democratic set up can curb activities of divisive forces, he said it was the only way. Only a small group in certain parts of the nation raked up divisive issues; a majority of the people believed they were Indians first.

“It’s only a fringe group and I’m not concerned about such fringe elements,” he said.

When a student pointed out that though the Congress claimed to be on the side of ‘aam aadmi,’ people were not able to cope with price rise, he said price rise was the result of “a cyclical effect taking place at a global level.” In the days to come, the pressure would reduce on inflation and prices of essential commodities.

Mr. Gandhi’s visit to the university drew flak from the State unit of the CPI and BJP. Addressing a press conference here, secretary of the Puducherry unit of the CPI, N. Kalainathan, said Mr. Gandhi used the official visit to attend a Youth Congress function late in the evening.

The BJP held a demonstration at Kalapet to protest against the university’s decision to allow Mr. Gandhi to interact with students.