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Faction fight before Rahul

New Delhi, Feb. 15: Rahul Gandhi today got a glimpse of faction fights, intrigues and mutual distrust in the Congress, a picture rarely shown to Sonia Gandhi by the mandarins of the party high command.

On the first day of the meeting with PCC chiefs and CLP leaders, state leaders blamed the high command’s apathy, ministers’ disconnect with the party system and internal sabotage for the electoral losses and the weakening organisation.

When a senior general secretary tried to hush things up, Rahul asserted that he wanted to understand the truth.

This happened when Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit locked horns with PCC chief J.P. Agarwal, both blaming each other for the party’s woes. Agarwal said Dikshit had no concern for the party and did not even take the name of the PCC president at events.

He said the PCC remained in the dark over state government programmes and Dikshit relied on bureaucrats to run the system. Dikshit rebutted the charges and accused the PCC chief of internal sabotage and attempts to malign the government.

Determined to delve deeper into the malaise, Rahul encouraged all to speak freely. But he pointed out that state units could not escape responsibility as the high command’s role was only to assist the local machinery.

Rahul made this point when a Punjab CLP leader was explaining how the party lost the last Assembly elections owing to its own mistakes, including factionalism, wrong ticket distribution and the central leadership’s unilateralism.

Rahul told the Punjab leader blame games were of no help and the Congress could do wonders if its senior leaders stayed united. He Stressing the need for introspection and accountability, said elections were fought and won in constituencies and the local organisational infrastructure would have to take responsibility.

He agreed with the suggestion that a new leadership ought to be developed by giving importance to youth, women and leaders from backward castes.

Rahul, who will speak in the end tomorrow, was surprised when Bihar unit chief Mehboob Ali Kaiser said the list for the PCC executive submitted by him a year ago had not been approved so far. Kaiser told Rahul to ask the general secretary concerned when he sought to know the reason for such delays. Ironically, there are several PCC chiefs who themselves resigned long time ago but they were asked to continue as caretaker without being given a proper team.

Rahul’s initiative to hold such a conference impressed most leaders who felt this was a crucial step to opening up a system run “mysteriously by a coterie.”

A CLP leader said: “Rahul’s stature has risen phenomenally by the very decision to listen to all of us. We never got such an opportunity. We all know Sonia was never told the truth about the organisation. Rahul will succeed in reforming the Congress culture even if he doesn’t bring electoral successes like his father or grandmother did.”

The exercise will continue tomorrow as states spoke in alphabetical order, ending with Puducherry today. West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh will get their chance to speak tomorrow.While states like Goa complained of victimisation by the BJP, Andhra chief minister appealed to Rahul to decide the Telangana issue either way immediately if the party had to concentrate on strengthening the organisation. He said the confusion was forcing Congress leaders to join other parties, particularly Jaganmohan Reddy’s outfit.