The old-time Congress rules of avoiding alcohol and using khadi left some red faces at Sonia Gandhi's meeting with the party's state chiefs on Tuesday. Rahul Gandhi, who had raised the issue at a similar gathering in 2007, spoke of it again at the meeting, which was held for party membership drive sources said.
Mr Gandhi followed it up with a pointed question - "Who all here drinks?"
As some members looked embarrassed, it was left to Navjot Sidhu to respond. "Most people in my state drink," responded the cricketer-turned politician, without going into specifics, sources said.
Though accommodating this situation required a change in the rules for membership it could not be done at the moment.
Rules like this can only be changed by the working Committee - the highest decision making body of the party - and the no drinking rule, dating back from the days of Mahatma Gandhi, remains in the books. Rahul Gandhi had questioned the relevance and practical aspect of this rule in 2007 at a congress working committee.
For now, the rule has made its way into the membership forms for the party's membership drive due to begin on November 1 -- ahead of the next round of state polls.
The party's membership forms list 10 points as personal declaration by people wanting to be members-abstention from alcohol and drugs is one of the points. New members also have to give an undertaking to never criticise the party's policies and programmes in public forums.
Forms for joining the party will be available in both printed and digital forms, senior party leader Randeep Surjewala told the media after the meeting. "There will be training programmes across the country from the top to bottom for everyone," he added.
"At the meeting, Rahul Gandhi said there has to be nationwide agitation at the grassroot level and this will be launched from the November 14," Mr Surjewala said.