Rahul Gandhi on Saturday set time-bound targets for the state Congress chiefs, who were asked to increase contact with workers, making it clear that reward will be linked to their performance and tickets will be given only after the candidates fulfill the set criteria.
After a two-day interaction with Pradesh Congress Committee chiefs and Congress Legislative Party leaders as part of an exercise to tone up the Congress before the next vote, Gandhi asked the state party presidents to "move out of party's state offices" for at least 10 days in a month and visit the districts and blocks to hear the party men's grievances and strengthen the organisation.
He also gave a timeline of two-months to the state leaders to ensure that all district Congress committees and block Congress committees are constituted in this period, adding that he will review the performance of the PCC chiefs on this count, party sources said.
Gandhi also decided to meet the PCC and CLP chiefs in the national capital once every two-three months and told them to carry out a similar exercise with DCC presidents in their states, they said. He also promised to work out a mechanism to be in touch with the state leaders through Internet tools or phone regularly saying "there should not be any communication gap".
Making it clear that only those who perform will be rewarded, the Congress vice president also sounded a warning that leaders who fail to come up with desired results will be made answerable, the sources said.
Amid complaints that Union ministers do not visit party offices when they visit the states, Gandhi said that the ministers must visit the PCC offices and interact with the state leaders when they go there.
The meeting saw demands that senior leaders, who recommend tickets for anyone, should take responsibility if the candidates perform badly or lose. A demand was also raised to implement the 'one-man one-post' formula in the party.
Gandhi had on Friday deprecated the tendency of groupism amid complaints by PCC chiefs from Delhi and Madhya Pradesh against Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit and some Union ministers from Madhya Pradesh respectively, which is ruled by the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
PCC chiefs and CLP leaders from West Bengal, Orissa, Maharashtra and other states had demanded clarity on the issue of alliances amid concerns that regional parties were taking away the Congress space.
West Bengal PCC chief Pradeep Bhattacharya batted for the Congress going it alone in West Bengal, remaining equidistant from both the Trinamool Congress and the Communist Party of India.
"We should contest the upcoming panchayat polls in the state alone. Our previous alliance with Trinamool Congress has damaged the party while Mamata Banerjee's party benefited by aligning with us," he said.
He also claimed that though the CPI-M "is keen for an alliance with the Congress, we should avoid it as it will prove detrimental to Congress' interests".
Hitting out at former ally Trinamool, which parted ways with the Congress last year, Bhattacharya alleged that there was "complete lawlessness in West Bengal and the Congress workers were being prosecuted".
Responding to it, Gandhi said he should strengthen the organisation there and agreed to his proposal for one to one discussion on the issue.
Uttar Pradesh CLP leader Pradeep Mathur said that there is a need to examine at what cost the Congress should be ready to forge alliances. "What is the benefit of forging alliances where regional parties are finishing us," he asked. This was a concern expressed even at the party's Chintan
hivir in Jaipur last month.
On issues related to Madhya Pradesh which were raised at the interaction with Gandhi, PCC chief Kantilal Bhuria said that it is not a matter of complaint but "the facts" should be put out if such a meeting is held. He was asked about his comments against Union Ministers Kamlanath and Jyotiradiya Scindia, who hail from the state.
"I asked Rahul Gandhi to advise them to attend the meeting of the coordination committee. Ministers should attend the meeting of the coordination committee. Ministers should take out time for the organisation. Rahul ji said that any minister visiting the state must inform the PCC," Bhuria said after the meeting.
A coordination committee of the Congress has been constituted for the state assembly polls scheduled this year.
Uttar Pradesh PCC chief Nirmal Khatri struck an introspective note saying, "There is a need to put our house in order in UP. Why we are not getting the support of masses despite having heritage, ideology and leaders at central level."
Uttarakhand PCC chief Yashpal Arya demanded effective steps to check indiscipline saying the problem is not so much at the junior level as it is at "our level". "Whoever it is, if he speaks against party leaders, we should take action," Arya said.
His remarks are significant as a virtual rebellion had broken out in the Uttarakhand unit of the party when Bahuguna was made the chief minister as the camp of Union Minister Harish Rawat was unhappy with the choice.
Later, Congress General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters that Gandhi's two-day interaction with the state leaders was a meeting to review the state of affairs in various states.
At the outset, Gandhi had asked the state leaders to be free and frank in the discussions so that he could get a clear picture and the state leaders took the cue.
Dwivedi said that all the 45 leaders, who attended the deliberations, spoke at the 13-hour long meeting, which was spread over two days He said that when such consultations take place, a host of matters concerning the organisation come up.
Madhya Pradesh CLP leader Ajay Singh, son of party veteran late Arjun Singh, said that leaders should take responsibility for the defeat of candidates, if they play a role in getting them tickets, the sources said.
West Bengal chief Pradeep Bhattacharya said that the Congress should go to people in the states seeking mandate for itself saying that since they have now tried and tested both the CPI-M and Trinamool Congress, they should now give Congress a chance.
The issue of price rise was also raised in the meeting, with leaders demanding that it should ne checked as elections are nearing.
CLP leader of Uttar Pradesh Pradeep Mathur pressed for a pro-people budget. "The budget should be one which gives relief to people," he said.
Rajasthan PCC chief Chandrabhan stressed that there should be proper coordination among the AICC, PCC, DCCs and the party government in the state.
The interaction on both days saw participants slamming central ministers for not giving due importance to the PCC and CLP leaders in the Opposition-ruled states.
"Ministers meet the Opposition chief ministers and even praise them when they visit the states," some of them rued, said sources.
As the complaints grew louder, Gandhi said that he will see to it that the ministers communicate regularly with the PCC chiefs. There were also complaints about lack of clarity on how to respond or what is the party line if some big incident happens in any state.
"There is nobody to tell us, how we have to respond," said many to which Gandhi interjected saying he will work out some system to ensure that there is no such confusion and even he could be contacted in such an eventuality.