Congress President Sonia Gandhi today sent out a strong message to party leaders at the Chintan Shivir in Jaipur asking them to understand its electorate, which is younger and less tolerant of the corruption it faces daily.
The Congress' brain-storming session began in Jaipur today and the focus is on the 2014 elections and Rahul Gandhi's role in leading the party in the battle. The ruling party hopes to emerge from the two-day-long session armed with strategy on, among other things, how to reconnect with an angry urban middle class.
Here's what Sonia Gandhi told the congress leaders at the meet.
On the strength of the Congress party:
Sonia Gandhi pointed out out that the Congress party was the only pan Indian party which existed in every village and city of the country. "We are the only Pan Indian party and we appeal to all sections of society from Dalits to Adivasi's" she said.
She added that for the Congress inclusiveness was not a political ploy to win elections.
"We are the only party who believes that development and economic growth on the one hand and social harmony and social justice on the other are two sides of the same coin."
Over rising crimes against women, children:
In the wake of the brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old woman aboard a moving bus in the capital and the continuing cases of violence against women, the UPA chairperson said, "With the greatest anguish I have to say that discrimination against the girl child continues. The way we still treat widows, the trafficking of children, brazen sexual harassment are very disturbing trends."
"Discrimination against the girl child, atrocities against women are a blot on our collective conscience. Gender issues are fundamental; the entire party must bring this to the heart of political activity and change mindsets".
Sonia Gandhi has not really dealt with Jairam Ramesh's charge that the Congress has structural issues, but she does address the perceptions of corruption that have hurt the party. "Ostentatious display of wealth leads to the question where is this wealth coming from," she said.
She also exhorts Congress leaders to come together setting aside personal ambitions and egos, so that the party thrives.
"Our people are fed up with the corruption they face. We must understand this. Today's India is better informed and equipped. The technology has led them to ask more of their leaders," she added.
On foreign policy:
Emphasising on peaceful ties with neighbouring countries, Sonia said that the relations should be based on "principles of civilised behaviour". Her statements come in the wake of the brutal killing of two Indian Army soldiers near the Line of Control by Pakistani troops on 8 January.
"Let us be very clear, our dialogue must be based on principles of civilised behavior. We will never compromise. India's foreign policy has always had a vision for its unique position in world affairs. This will be enhanced when we strengthen democracy", she says.
On future plans:
Sonia said the party must strike a fine balance between allies, policies. "In some states the party has not been able to consolidate political support. This is an issue that will have to be looked at", she said.
"We have to strike a fine balance between respecting alliances and ensuring rejuvenation of the party", she added."In some cases, historic legislation by UPA has not been translated into political support; I hope that will be discussed".
She also said, "The last nine years have been a period of tremendous economic growth, social change and technological innovation. We should look at our strengths, our weaknesses and the threats we face. We have to recognise the new India. The younger generation is more demanding and less tolerant."