Sharaful Nisa, Ernakulam district general secretary of the Kerala Students Union (KSU), was simply floored on Saturday when All India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi shook hands with her. "I just cannot believe it. It’s really magical," she gushed.

Ms. Nisa was among three of the elected office bearers of the KSU who got a chance to make a presentation on the strengths and weaknesses of the students union before Mr. Gandhi at the three-day workshop for young activists organised by the State committee of the KSU in Santhigiri Ashram at Edathala near Aluva.

The youngster began her presentation by saying that one of the major drawbacks was the lack of organisational presence for KSU in the State. Stating that the union should strengthen its block and panchayat level base, Ms. Nisa said that there was also lack of political freedom on the campuses here. George, Alapuzha district secretary of the KSU, and Shajeena, Thrissur district president, who spoke afterwards said that the union was facing the problem of not being able to adapt to the changing times.

Dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans, Mr. Gandhi tried to create an informal atmosphere right from the moment he started responding to the presentations made by the youngsters.

Congratulating them for assessing the youth organisation’s pluses and minuses, Mr. Gandhi said that representatives from Kerala and West Bengal who attended the meetings of National Students Union of India (NSUI) held at New Delhi often complain about the violent tactics adopted by their rival unions. "Whenever I hear the discussion, I tell them we are discussing the wrong issue," he said referring to the point that violence was not the solution to any problem. “The problem is strengthening our base and not violence," he said.

Elaborating on his views, Mr. Gandhi asked Hibi Eden, NSUI national president, about the number of KSU office bearers seated inside the hall. Jinto John, KSU Ernakulam president, said that there were around 88 students.

Reacting to the observations that the youth wing required more fund mobilisation, Mr. Gandhi said that the successful conduct of the State committee elections of KSU was the first step towards strengthening the union in the State. Issues like lack of funds and co-ordination will be addressed in the next phases, he said.

The local lads residing near the ashram were bowled over by Mr. Gandhi when he suddenly got down from his vehicle while leaving the venue. The children, who were holding flowers in their hands, were delighted when Mr. Gandhi asked them their names. He also gave autographs to a few children on the occasion.

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