Rahul Gandhi on Friday said the Congress needs fearless leaders and those in the party who are afraid should be thrown out, in a pep talk to the party's social media team that ended up as a scorching message to defectors and dissidents.
"There are many people who are not afraid and they are outside the Congress. We should bring them in," the Congress MP said animatedly, addressing party workers via video link.
"And there are those in our party who are afraid. Throw them out. Chalo bhaiya jao. RSS ke taraf bhago. Nahin chahiye. (Please leave, run to RSS, We don't want you). The party does not need you," he said, referring to the BJP's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Mr Gandhi added: "We need fearless people. That is our ideology. That is my basic message."
The Congress leader's words were seen to aim at former close aides like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada, who are now in the BJP.
Mr Scindia, who delivered Madhya Pradesh to the BJP last year after ditching the Congress along with a large number of MLAs, recently joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet.
Jitin Prasada, another member of Mr Gandhi's close circle, quit in June and is likely to play a significant part in the BJP's plans for Uttar Pradesh, where elections will take place next year.
Mr Gandhi also appeared to direct some of his comments at dissenters in the Congress. Many of them are part of the so-called G-23 or group of 23 who had written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi complaining about a leadership drift following a series of poll defeats, and suggesting a full-time, visible leadership and collective decision-making.
Some also interpreted his remarks as a veiled invite to election strategist Prashant Kishor, who met with the Gandhis - Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra - earlier this week, setting off wild speculation.
Sources say the Gandhis and Mr Kishor may have explored a formal role for the strategist in the party as it prepares big elections ahead, state and national. Mr Gandhi, say sources, told Mr Kishor that he could drive changes in the grand old party more effectively from within.