New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Monday said the party should address basic problems first to face future political challenges, and added the party would be stronger if its constitution was implemented in letter and spirit.
Nine states will have assembly polls this year with the big battle of the next Lok Sabha elections scheduled in 2014, which will test the leadership skills of 42-year-old Gandhi, who heads the coordination panel for the 2014 polls.
"The party would be stronger if the constitution was implemented in letter and spirit. It is a radical document which draws from the vast experience of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and others," Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi quoted Rahul Gandhi as having told the All India Congress Committee office-bearers here.
The Monday meeting concluded Rahul Gandhi's three-day "feedback-cum-interaction" session where he gave party leaders a chance to express themselves freely and suggest ways to strengthen the party.
This was Rahul Gandhi's first formal interaction with AICC leaders after becoming vice president of the party Jan 19. It was a clear sign of his lead role in future as his mother and party chief Sonia Gandhi stayed away from the deliberations.
According to Dwivedi, Rahul Gandhi said he wanted to hold similar sessions with the state, district and block level party leaders.
Earlier, on Jan 31 and Feb 1, Rahul Gandhi heard party general secretaries in charge of states and secretaries, who listed problems affecting the party, like faulty ticket distribution, lack of unity and discipline and membership issues.
Insiders said the feedback is expected to give Rahul Gandhi an overview of the state of party affairs and would help him finalise the much-awaited Congress reshuffle to prepare his team for the 2014 general elections.
During the interactions, some secretaries criticised the style of functioning of general secretaries and state unit chiefs while complaining that the ministers never met them.
Many of them demanded "responsibility with accountability", saying the party needed an overhaul immediately.
"There is no need to rush with the change. We need to correct basic problems and follow the rules," Rahul Gandhi said while urging leaders to refrain from bringing up personal grievances.
"That (personal issues) can be taken care of later," he said.
Party insiders hinted the change in organsiation could come in two phases since Rahul Gandhi was keen to give key party roles to younger leaders.
The party constitution, Rahul Gandhi said, was a model one crafted after much deliberations and reflected the Congress image which has been representing the people for the past 127 years.
"We should be proud to be Congress workers," Dwivedi quoted Rahul Gandhi as saying.
The "Monday's meeting was the last one in this round.
"Leaders expressed themselves freely on how to strengthen the organisation," Dwivedi told reporters after the over two-hour meeting at the party headquarters here. "Around 14 leaders spoke," he said.
Rahul Gandhi told the leaders he would convey their concerns to his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi.