Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Friday assured a group of local body representatives from across the country that their “voices and opinions” would be taken into account in the decision making process of his party and the government.

Mr. Gandhi was interacting with the local body representatives to elicit their views for the Congress party’s “open manifesto” for 2014 elections in Wardha district of Maharashtra on Friday.

Mr.Gandhi claimed that his party had given up the practice of making manifestos in closed rooms and had initiated a new way to make manifestos to include stakeholders’ opinions in it.

Saying that his party would go to every stakeholder to know what they wanted in their manifesto, Mr. Gandhi assured the gathering that the “open manifesto” would be implemented if his party’s government came to power again.

“Our ground level workers and local body members are coming to me and saying that they are not being given powers at the grassroots level. When the powers of the MPs are taken away, it directly affects the powers of Pradhan [village head] and the panchyats. If you look carefully, everyone from our MPs and MLAs to the Pradhan, has been dis-empowered. Today the power lies with the Chief Minister and a few bureaucrats who work under the judiciary and the media pressure. So we need to empower everyone from the Pradhan to the MP,” he said.

The Congress vice-president also recalled how his father Rajiv Gandhi had ushered in a telecom revolution in India by introducing the Public Call Office (PCO).

“The PCOs broke the monopoly of select few to have phone connections which was followed by the mobile in your pocket. You [the local body members] are the PCOs of the politics to break the monopoly of a few” said Mr.Gandhi while asking the members for suggestions for the evolution power of the local bodies.

Earlier, Mr.Gandhi visited the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram in Sewagram and also interacted with the students of a nearby school.

Later on in the evening, he had an “informal” conversation with a group of journalists in Nagpur.