New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday said left-wing extremism can be defeated by better implementation of rural development programmes and called for harnessing mineral resources in tribal areas in a way that does not destroy the land or take away livelihoods.

Addressing a convention on "Empowerment of Tribal Women in India" organised by All India Mahila Congress here, Gandhi called upon the workers of the party's women wing to agitate if flagship programmes of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government are not being implemented in their states.

Gandhi, who underwent surgery in the US in August, surprised the assembled gathering by joining the tribal women in their traditional dance.

Special Protection Group personnel, who followed Gandhi, had a hard time as the seemingly excited women tried to shake hands with the Congress president. Gandhi happily accepted their greetings and gifts and joined them for a few dance steps.

The Mahila Congress leaders on the stage watched smilingly as Gandhi's presence among women delegates sent a wave of excitement at the gathering. Some of the workers even captured Gandhi's impromptu jig on their mobile phones.

In her speech, Gandhi said central and state governments should fulfill their responsibilities in tribal areas.

"We all know there is left-wing extremism in a number of districts with sizeable tribal population. We can defeat it by better implementation of rural development programmes. It is primary duty of central and state governments that they fulfill their responsibilities in tribal areas. I feel that if we do that, then those who have adopted the path of violence today, we will be able to bring them to the national mainstream," she said.

Gandhi said that it is duty of the Mahila Congress and the party's women workers in tribal areas to inform people at the grassroots about the programmes of the UPA government and guide them to take benefits.

"Wherever these programmes are not being implemented, they should agitate," she said. She also said that minerals in tribal areas should be used with care.

"Tribal areas are rich in minerals. But these resources should be used in a manner that does not destroy land belonging to tribals and does not snatch away their livelihood. Our central government is making such a law which will allow development of mineral resources and give its benefits to tribal communities and primacy to youth in employment," Gandhi said.

The Congress president said the question now was not of protecting and conserving the age-old tribal traditions that have enriched society but of giving these communities new avenues of growth and development.

Noting the difficulties tribal women face in their daily lives, she said the Congress had been committed to development of tribals and recalled the initiatives taken by late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for welfare of these communities.

She said the vision of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi brought a "revolution of panchayti raj" in villages and many tribal women were raising their voice through these institutions.

Gandhi said the party had a long and strong bond with tribals. "It is duty of all of us to see that the bond is nurtured further in keeping with the wishes of younger generation."

She said Forest Rights Act passed by the UPA government in 2006 has given legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities.

Several union ministers including Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told the gathering about the schemes of their ministries.

Congress workers from various tribal areas of the country are attending the day-long convention which was also addressed by Mahila Congress chief Anita Verma and party MP Mohsina Kidwai.

(Agencies)