Party gripes, Rahul makes 'fair' promise

New Delhi, Feb. 1: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today agreed with the majority view among office bearers that systems in the party weren't fair and required drastic changes, which he promised in due course.

Rahul spoke of overhauling the system to ensure responsibility was clearly defined, accountability fixed and rules followed scrupulously, the assurances coming during an interaction with general secretaries and secretaries at a closed-door meeting that started yesterday.

While promising to address the shortcomings highlighted by the leaders, Rahul, however, cautioned against hasty changes.

But the widespread discontent raised questions about Sonia Gandhi's leadership. Many leaders are surprised by Rahul's candid confession and want to know who are to blame. Rahul's approach has triggered a fierce churning in the Congress and some leaders described the event as a "quake".

But one veteran contested the perception that the discontent was an indictment of Sonia's leadership.

"Soniaji resurrected the party from the brink. Her priorities were different; she had to keep the Congress united and ensure a secular coalition replaced the BJP-led government," the senior leader told The Telegraph.

Another leader expressed similar sentiments, though he was a little critical too. "Sonia prevented the Congress from total disintegration and now Rahul has come at an ideal time to create a modern organisation with a new vision. Sonia's contribution is historic but the views expressed by these leaders who were part of her team certainly indicate that she ignored the organisational rot. Those who ran the party must take responsibility for creating a system which saddens Rahul and so many of us. That bit of negativity is genuine."

Rahul had said at the recent Jaipur AICC meeting that he often wondered how the party functioned and won elections. Similar sentiments were expressed today and Rahul promised changes.

Most Congress leaders, even those who earlier nursed doubts about Rahul's abilities, now believe he has shown leadership mettle. One senior cabinet minister said: "He admits shortcomings and failures. This shows his sincerity and self-confidence. He has earned enormous respect in a very short span, within 15 days of becoming vice-president."

The second day of the ongoing interaction, which will resume on Monday, saw AICC secretaries complaining that their roles were not defined and there was no mechanism to monitor implementation of decisions. Another gripe was lack of co-ordination among departments and the government.

"I often receive complaints that ministers don't visit party offices in states and districts. Once they know this will harm them, they will be seen in PCC and DCC offices only," Rahul said.

Suggestions were made for a mechanism to receive feedback from the organisation and involvement of the Youth Congress and the NSUI in the government's flagship programmes and mainstream political activities.

Rahul appreciated the proposals but struck a note of caution. "Let me understand everything. I will not do anything in haste but every issue will be addressed."

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