New Delhi: In a candid message to top Congress leaders, party president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday said strengthening the organisation must override "personal ambitions" and expressed concern over "lack of clarity and cohesion" on policy issues among state leaders.
Emphasising the need for discipline and unity for both collective and individual success, Gandhi, while chairing a meeting of party leaders to evolve a strategy for assembly elections in five states early next year, also said the party's messages on key issues facing the nation were not percolating down to the grassroot cadres.
Addressing reporters later, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party will undertake a massive nationwide membership drive starting November 1 and will also wage an "ideological battle" against the "subjugation of democracy" through training programmes.
It is also decided to launch a big agitation on inflation - 'Jan Jagran Abhiyan' from November 14-29, he said.
The meeting to chalk out a strategy ahead of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur was among others attended by former party chief Rahul Gandhi, party general secretaries, in-charges and pradesh presidents, and comes amid growing factionalism within the party's state units.
Gandhi said the party also wishes to focus on training its cadres to counter BJP's "false propaganda" and will work out modalities for the upcoming training programmes.
"The fight to defend our democracy, our constitution and the Congress party's ideology begins with being fully prepared to identify and counter false propaganda. We must fight the diabolical campaign of BJP/RSS ideologically. We must do so with conviction and expose their lies before the people if we are to win this battle," she said.
Noting that AICC releases important and detailed statements almost every day on issues facing the nation, Sonia Gandhi said, "but it is my experience that they do not percolate down to our grass root cadres at the block and district level".
"There are policy issues on which I find a lack of clarity and cohesion even amongst our state-level leaders", she added.
During the meeting, many leaders suggested measures on how to strengthen the party at the grassroots.
While Nagaland PCC chief Kewekhape Therie urged party leaders not to speak in the media against the organisation, Punjab PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu said it was important for the party to take action on the issue of sacrilege, an emotive issue for the people of the poll-bound state, sources said.
Priyanka Gandhi also listed steps taken to win over people in Uttar Pradesh, with the Mahila Congress chief suggesting that the reservation for women be implemented in all other elections and states.
"I would like to re-emphasise the paramount need for discipline and unity. What should matter to each and every one of us is the strengthening of the organisation. This must override personal ambitions. In this lies both collective and individual success," Sonia Gandhi said in her opening remarks.
Asked if Sonia Gandhi's remarks were intended towards any particular individual or group, Surjewala said every word spoken by her was important and was not meant for any particular individual or group but for everyone.
He said since the Congress ideology is to fight against injustice, we have to fight against discrimination and we have to fight against the attack on the people and on the Constitution and on the democracy.
"If the rights of anyone are violated, even if someone opposes us, we will fight for such a person and will speak in unison without breaking any discipline. We have to fight against injustice and inequality together. This is her advice and I think that the senior-most leaders and the smallest workers should definitely think about this advice of the party president with a positive attitude," he added.
Stressing on training programmes for party workers during the meeting, the Congress chief said it should be taken up on priority.
Noting that new members are the "lifeblood" of any political movement, Sonia Gandhi said the young men and women across the nation seek a movement to give voice to their aspirations and it is the Congress' duty to provide them with a platform.
She also called upon party leaders to go house to house to enrol members in a transparent fashion to help connect with more and more people.
Attacking the Modi government, she said it has sought to erode our institutions so it may evade accountability and has sought to undermine the core values of our constitution so it can hold itself to a lower standard.
It has questioned the very fundamentals of our democracy, she said.
Gandhi said the party's history bears witness to the fact that if an organisation is to succeed against injustice and inequality, if it is to effectively champion the rights of the marginalised, it must become a widespread agitation down to the grassroots.
"We must redouble our fight for those who are the victims of this government's worst excesses: our farmers and farm labourers, our youth fighting for jobs and opportunities, small and medium scale businesses, our brothers, our sisters with particular focus on the deprived," she stressed.
On the assembly elections early next year, the Congress leader said our campaign must be founded upon concrete policies and programmes emanating from widespread discussions with all sections of the society.
The party also asserted that it will focus on "sufferings" of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, OBCs, minorities and women due to the "cruel policies" of the government during its membership drive and emphasised that the only solution to the problems being faced was to align with it.
Surjewala said special emphasis was laid on enrolling first time voters.