New Delhi, Mar 13: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday night held a marathon meeting with the leaders from Punjab to plan the party's strategy for the 2017 state Assembly elections.
The meeting which started around 7 PM continued for over four hours and was also attended by poll strategist Prashant Kishor.
All prominent leaders from the state, including former PCC chiefs Partap Singh Bajwa, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Shamsher Singh Dullo and senior party leader Ambika Soni and MPs and ex-MPs, attended the meeting, senior leader Jagmit Singh Brar was conspicuous by his absence.
Around 30 state leaders were also present during the meet. Sources said the party discussed it's plans on how to counter AAP which is a growing force in the state and mooted ways to reach out to the targeted electorate especially the youth.
Today's meeting comes in the wake of a similar session with Uttar Pradesh leaders with Kishore on March 2.
Congress has been out of power in Punjab for the past decade and to end this "bad patch", the party and Rahul Gandhi are working hard to wrest back power.
Sources said that the party will try and woo it's traditional vote bank of dalits and the marginalised sections and also focus on youth and women.
The party would chalk out plans of holding interactions with youth and various other sections in the coming months, the sources said.
PCC chief Amarinder Singh later said the the meeting was aimed at discussing the poll strategy and evolve plans for the party's campaign ahead.
Various leaders also gave their suggestions aimed at wooing the masses and countering the growing influence of AAP in the state.
Apart from the ruling SAD-BJP combine, the party is set to face a spirited challenge from AAP, which is gaining ground in the agrarian border state.
Gandhi has convened the meeting to facilitate threadbare discussions with Punjab leaders to devise a winning strategy after two successive losses, with the last one then blamed by the AICC on the "overconfidence" of the state leadership.
Congress sources said AICC has brought in Kishor to "help and assist" the Uttar Pradesh and Punjab units to craft the party's strategy for the crucial polls next year.
Kishor had played a key role in victories of Narendra Modi-led BJP in the 2014 general elections and the JD(U)-RJD- Congress alliance in Bihar assembly polls, which the Prime Minister and BJP President Amit Shah had turned into a prestige fight.
The meeting assumes significance as it comes at a time when state Congress leaders are getting increasingly wary about AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal's aggressive campaign plans and his strategy of targeting voters through an army of volunteers.
Congress has declared Punjab PCC Chief Amarinder Singh as the party's 'face' in the polls after Gandhi held a series of meetings with state leaders to persuade them to present a united face in the faction-ridden state unit.
Singh, a former Chief Minister, is considered the most formidable leader of the party in the state. Congress had lost the last assembly elections despite Gandhi declaring Singh as the chief ministerial candidate in the midst of the campaign.
Since the debacle in the last Lok Sabha elections, Congress has been losing state after state. Kishor is learnt to have already conducted preliminary surveys and based on that gave inputs on what the Congress needed to do to win the state, after a string of disappointing losses.