In a clear warning to some of its “loose cannons”, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday stressed that it expected its leaders and workers to “toe the party line” on larger political issues and maitain discipline in their public interactions.
Sources said former Congress President Sonia Gandhi also expressed concern over discipline in the party, terming it “the need of the hour”.
In the meeting of the newly formed Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet, party President Rahul Gandhi and AICC General Secretary Ashok Gehlot both emphasised in their respective addresses that party leaders and workers should observe discipline.
Recently, a controversy raged over Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s remark that a Hindu Pakistan would be created if the BJP returned to power. The Congress had advised him and its leaders to “exercise restraint, caution and choose their words and statements wisely”.
“The Congress President clearly said, he gave a friendly advice, and he hopes that all leaders of Congress party in view of the larger goal, that is, 2019 elections, will maintain discipline in both their language and conduct,” Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said while briefing the media after the meet.
“There is full freedom of expression but as far party line (on various issues) is concerned, the Congress leadership will expect from its leaders and workers that they maintain the dignity of the language as well as that of conduct,” he added.
Surjewala said that Gehlot, in his address, underlined that first this discipline would be expected from the leaders and then from the workers.
Sources said Gandhi also asked the party leaders if they had any issues, grievances or wanted to express anything with regard to the party, they should talk to him personally instead of airing their views in the media.
He also said if any leader gives a wrong remark, he will not hesitate to take action against the person, said a source.
In the past, certain comments by some Congress party leaders have cost the party dearly with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quickly encashing on the same, such as the BJP starting its “chai pe charcha” (discussion over tea) campaign in 2014 Lok Sabha elections after Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “chaiwallah” (tea vendor).
According to a source, CLP leader from Uttar Pradesh Ajay Kumar Lallu made a very important observation in the CWC meeting, saying that after Congress forms a government in any state, the party loses connect with its workers. This was agreed by all the members present in the CWC meeting and stressed that such an attitude needs to be changed.
Senior party leader Kamal Nath raised the issue of booth management during elections and said Congress was not on par with BJP in this regard. Many other leaders raised concerns over strengthening booth management of the party during elections.