New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi on Friday sent clear signals of introducing a performance-based "reward and punishment system" in Congress to tone up functioning of the organisation ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. At an interaction with PCC chiefs and CLP leaders here, he also said that there is a need for "fixing some definite criteria for ticket distribution". Gandhi said that four to five criteria should be fixed to decide eligibility of a candidate for giving them tickets during elections.
The Congress Vice President deprecated the tendency of groupism, asking partymen to shun it and make earnest efforts to connect with the people. "Rahul Gandhi said that both reward and punishment will follow. Those working seriously should be rewarded. Tasks will also be given. He said you set three four commitments for yourselves and I will see after some time whether you have fulfilled them or not," a state leader, who attended the meeting, said.
The remarks are significant as Gandhi has often talked about absence of rules and regulation and work culture in the party. Gandhi also told the state leaders that they should not work only from election point of view but also aim to strengthen the organisation. He said this while intervening during an interaction with the PCC chiefs and CLP leaders, which saw a total of 32 leaders expressing their views on the first day of the two-day exercise.
"Everybody must realise his weaknesses and accept that. We can progress only then," he said during the interaction, which also involved issues like that of alliances in states, early resolution of Telangana row, how to cope with regional parties and strategy to counter Narendra Modi's media campaign.
Amid demands for a formulating a strategy by Congress to counter Gujarat Chief Minister media campaign, Gandhi said that if the party workers are vocal, then there will be not much need to counter such campaign on television or media.
The meeting saw leaders from various states demanding clarity on the issue of alliances. Jharkhand PCC chief Pradip Balumuchu said that the central leadership should make it clear whether Congress has to form a government in the tribal state currently under President's Rule after the BJP-JMM alliance collapsed there.
He also demanded a clear idea whether Congress will ally with any party in Jharkhand in future elections or not and if yes, with whom. Congress' alliance with JVM (P) has fallen apart in the state and there is apparent unwillingness among central leaders of Congress to ally with Shibu Soren's JMM.
Fresh from the debacle in BJP-ruled Gujarat, Congress state chief Arjun Modhwadia claimed that Congress' defeat was due to the party's inability to match Modi's "massive" media campaign, alleging the Gujarat government spent more than Rs 2,000 crore of government funds on campaign, which could not countered.
He also said that there was an need to build a strategy to counter Modi with a "blitzkrieg" media campaign. Modhwadia alleged that Modi had resorted to "false propaganda" regarding development and other issues outside Gujarat.
"When we counter his claims in Gujarat, our arguments remain limited to media in the state. So there is a need to counter Gujarat Chief Minister's false claims by other leaders at the central level," he said in the meeting, said sources.
Several PCC Presidents and CLP leaders incuding Chief Minsters participated in the meeting which also saw demands for early resolution of the vexed Telangana issue with both Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and state chief Botcha Satyanarayana saying that the long pending issue should be resolved.
It also saw complaints from some states where Congress is out of power that Chief ministers of opposition parties were praised by Union Ministers during their visits, creating an embarrassing situation for them, the sources said.
Gandhi, in his opening remarks, told the participants to place their views regarding "frankly" as he wants suggestions to rejuvenate the party in the states.
This is Gandhi's second such consultation after he was appointed the vice president at Congress chintan shivir at Jaipur in January. Jammu and Kashmir Congress President Saifuddin Soz said that the PCC Chiefs should be selected after due consideration and then should be given full responsibility.
"If the PCC chiefs fail, hold them accountable," he said in the meeting holding the view that the party organisation in a state can be strengthened only that way.
Andhra Pradesh PCC chief Botsa Satyanarayana talked about the issue of corruption related to YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy. Leaders from Chhattisgarh complained that when ministers visit the state, they don't come to the party offices.
Bihar PCC chief Mehboob Ali Kaiser said that there is a need for immedicate reconstitution of the PCC in their state which has been suspended long back. Modhwadia alleged the difference between the political party and the government in BJP-ruled states had been completely blurred and government mechanism was being misused to the hilt to carry out the party agenda.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Kaiser said that he apprised Gandhi of the problems that the Congress was facing in Bihar and he gave a "positive" hearing. PCC Chiefs and CLP leaders were called at the meeting in an alphabetical order and Andhra Pradesh was the first to get a chance. Representatives of North-Eastern states had not come because of their engagement with elections there.
After the meeting concludes tomorrow, Gandhi will start holding interaction programmes with state units, starting from Odisha on February 18 and 19 where he will interact with district presidents, block presidents and panchayat members of the state in Sambalpur on February 18 and in Cuttack on February 19.