Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday tried to reassure the youth on their role in the country’s politics. The age of senior leaders nominating anyone of their choice undermining the aspirations of the grassroot level young party workers and the leadership imposing someone from above was over, he said.

Mr. Gandhi, who is on a two-day tour of Rajasthan to interact with youth as part of the Youth Congress’ ongoing membership drive, said there was a need for youth to come forward to join politics. He invited Dalits and tribal youth to actively participate in the nation-building process.

Reaching Sawai Madhopur in the morning, Mr. Gandhi interacted with a cross-section of youth during the day with his aircraft making stopovers in Kota and Udaipur. By evening he was in the border district of Barmer where he was to spend the night after discussing farmers’ issues with young farmers of the region.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who welcomed Mr. Gandhi in Sawai Madhopur, accompanied the party’s youth leader to some of the destinations including Barmer. Union Rural Development Minister and PCC president C. P. Joshi and AICC secretary and Alwar MP Jitendra Singh are accompanying him. The youths, who were found to be excited about meeting Mr. Gandhi, were left disappointed at the brief interactions as time was limited.

On the other hand, the “elders” in the party were kept out of the programmes. In Udaipur, the MLAs and Ministers above 35 years were not allowed to take part as tribal youths from Banswara, Dungarpur and Udaipur exchanged views with Mr. Gandhi at the Agriculture University grounds. The media too were kept out of the programmes on the first day.

In Kota, interacting with a large gathering of students undergoing coaching for competitive examinations—for which Kota is famous— at Instrumentation Limited’s township, Mr. Gandhi said the country would have to continue with the present reservation system -- at least for the time being. Opinion was divided on the issue with one section demanding doing away with it immediately while the other advocating its continuation, he noted.

“In the prevailing situation it cannot be done away with,” Mr. Gandhi said responding to students’ queries. He smiled away when a curious participant quizzed him about his marriage. He chose to divert a question put up to him on Kota town missing IIT—it is going to Jodhpur—to Mr. Gehlot who was present.

In his reply Mr. Gehlot said the location for IIT Rajasthan was decided after a committee headed by V. S. Vyas recommended Jodhpur.

Mr. Gandhi’s “in camera” interaction with tribal youth of south Rajasthan provoked a reaction from VHP leader Ashok Singhal, who happened to be in Udaipur during the day.

“It is objectionable that he is meeting the tribals separately even without allowing the media around. We are monitoring his activities,” Mr.Singhal said.