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Grassroots bonding on Rahul’s agenda

Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, Feb. 4: The lack of concern among ministers for the party’s political interests, mutual ill-will and distrust among leaders and the growing disconnect with party workers dominated the third and last day of Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with AICC office-bearers here today.

Rahul was in agreement with these sentiments and promised to take concrete measures to address these issues, setting an example himself by fixing a time slot for regular interaction with party workers in Delhi. The schedule and nature of this interaction, on the lines of janata durbar done by many leaders, will be worked out.

So impressed was Rahul with the three-day meeting with the office-bearers that he expressed his desire to hold similar interactions at the state, district and block levels. Party leaders understand the impracticality of this idea as Rahul will neither have so much time before the next general election nor will his security concerns allow him such elaborate exercises all over the country.

But the message to the senior leaders was clear: go out and meet the people. He has himself been arguing for long that the Congress lost its clout primarily because its leaders lost connect with the masses. His other worry, disunity among senior leaders, also found voice at the meeting as secretaries, mostly younger and upcoming leaders, felt this problem was badly damaging the party.

Rahul reiterated that the Congress was like a family and there should be camaraderie and emotional bonding among the leaders.

The reality, however, is that nothing defines the Congress more than internal strife and groupism. Veterans often joke about the Congress running on conspiracies and intrigues.

At today’s meeting, one secretary said even chief ministers conspire to get sitting MPs defeated and entreated Rahul to urgently address this problem.

The government’s apathy towards the party’s political interests and electoral compulsions also came up in a big way. A secretary considered very close to Rahul suggested a mechanism to ensure that every minister spends at least an hour every week at the AICC headquarters. Rahul appreciated this suggestion, which is likely to be worked out.

Another speaker pointed to the irony of the organisation being ignored whenever the party is in power instead of the normal presumption that the organisation would gain from the fruits of power.

Party general secretary and media in-charge Janardan Dwivedi said in his formal briefing to the media that Rahul described the Congress constitution as ideal as it was based on the experience and the vision of Mahatma Gandhi and other great leaders.

Rahul was quoted as saying that Congress workers should take pride in the party ideology, which reflects the true Indian ethos, and that the party could do wonders only if the constitution was sincerely followed.

The party leadership, however, clamped down on leaders revealing the contents of the meeting to the media. Dwivedi told participants that he had ways to find out the sources of any leak and the party would take a serious view of any indiscretion.