Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with state leaders of the party on Tuesday put some red faces in the old-fashioned Congress rules on avoiding alcohol and using khadi. Rahul Gandhi, who raised the issue at a similar rally in 2007, reiterated this at a meeting held for the party’s membership drive.
Mr. Gandhi followed it with a subtle question – “Who drinks here?”
As some members felt embarrassed, Navjot Sidhu was left to respond. “Most people in my state drink,” he said, turning from a cricketer to a politician, without going into detail.
Although there was a need to change the membership rules in line with this situation, it could not be done at this time.
Such rules can only be changed by the executive committee – the highest decision-making body of the party – and the rule of drinking since the days of Mahatma Gandhi has remained in the book. In 2007, Rahul Gandhi questioned the relevance and practicality of the rule in the Congress Working Committee.
For now, the rule has entered membership forms for party membership drives starting November 1 – before the next state election.
Party membership makes a 10-point list of those who want to become members as a personal declaration – a point to abstain from alcohol and drugs. New members must also pledge not to criticize the party’s policies and programs in public forums.
Forms to join the party will be available in both printed and digital forms, senior party leader Randeep Surjewala told media after the meeting. “There will be training programs for everyone from top to bottom across the country,” he added.
“At the meeting, Rahul Gandhi said that there should be a nationwide movement at the grassroots level and it would start from November 14,” Mr Surjewala said.