New Delhi: It was a reality check for Rahul Gandhi on the state of affairs in the Congress in his first formal interaction with party leaders as Vice President which saw lot of fireworks, blame game and complaints of indiscipline.
The three-hour-long meeting witnessed senior leaders targeting either their colleagues or Chief Ministers accusing them of hijacking the state organisations. A senior leader even went on describe the interaction as a "hit and run" affair with almost each office bearer utilising the opportunity to lash out at his opponent in the party either at the AICC or in his own state.
Some general secretaries as also other leaders complained that some seniors are getting promotions despite losing states under their charge. Another complaint was that the state PCC becomes a handmaid of the party Chief Minister, who ensures a pliable PCC chief and runs the state according to his whims and fancies.
When the party loses in such a state, it becomes very difficult to revive the party organisation was the refrain of a number of leaders, sources said. The closed door meeting began after Rahul asked for a free and frank discussion.
"Rahul Gandhi said that he wanted all leaders to speak out their mind openly and not hide anything. He said that if we want to strengthen the party, it is necessary that we put forth views frankly and truthfully," party general secretary Dwivedi told reporters after the meeting.
Gandhi told the leaders that the party has to look to future now. "I want to know your opinion on how to traverse the path ahead," he said. As the complaints mounted, Gandhi told the leaders, "Why cry over spilt milk. Forget the past. Let us start with a clean slate.
"Now the organisation has to be run on the principle of performance and accountability."
Sources said the meeting saw a large number of members raising the issue of indiscipline in the party saying this is turning out to be a major problem during elections.
Some leaders expressed annoyance by the "practice of few" to cross the party's official line while commenting on issues despite AICC trying to rein in such tendencies. AICC general secretaries Janardan Dwivedi and Digvijay Singh spoke at length in the meeting.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel also raised many points in the meeting. Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who doubles up AICC general secretary in-charge of Andhra Pradesh, said that one-man-one-post should be implemented in the party.
Another senior leader said that the way the organisation is being run in some states, genuine party leaders have become inactive and prefer to stay at home, which is harming the cause of the organisation.
After the meeting was over, Rahul Gandhi told reporters that the discussions were on "general issues and "very good" and that he "just heard out what people had to say".
Dwivedi said that a total of 19 persons including Rahul Gandhi spoke in the meeting, which was attended by 52 of 57 persons including AICC general secretaries, AICC secretaries, in-charges of states and chiefs of all the frontal wings of the party, who were invited.
The meeting saw demands for bringing in discipline and cohesiveness in the party's functioning. Since the discussion could not be completed, the meeting will continue tomorrow as well. In his opening remarks, Rahul Gandhi insisted on a "frank and open" discussion.
Other leaders, who spoke included Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Mohsina Kidwai, Digvijay Singh, Mukul Wasnik, Madhusudan Mistri, B K Hariprasad, Chaudhary Bireder Singh, Shakeel Ahmed, Mohan Prakash and Jagdish Tytler and Luizinho Faleiro.