Jaipur: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday expressed concern over the fact that the party was not working as a “team” and was out of power in several key states.
“There is increased competition and inroads have been made in our traditional strongholds,” Sonia said in her inaugural address at the two-day Congress Chintan Shivir here.
The Congress chief said not being in power was matter of concern for the party, adding there was a need to work in cohesion in those states.
She, however, added that being in power was not the Congress’ sole purpose.
"Is it not the case that we have floundered many opportunities that people are willing to give us simply because we have been unable to function as a disciplined and united team," Sonia asked at the party conclave held at the Birla Auditorium here.
Sonia asked the party leaders to set aside personal ambitions and egos to work cohesively and ensure that the party puts up a better performance, particularly in states where it is out of power.
"Why do we forget the simple truth that in the party's victory lies the victory of each and every one of us," she asked.
It is time for introspection, she said, and added that there is a need to look at the party’s strengths and weaknesses.
Sonia said Congress was the only pan-India party with presence in every state, district and block-level.
She pointed out that the people were now better informed and equipped than ever before and their expectation of the people from the government had also grown.
"Our people are fed up with the corruption that they face. We must understand this," Gandhi said.
"We cannot allow growing educated middle classes to be alienated from the political process," she said Gandhi.
The issues behind urban street protests last year, such as corruption and safety of women, which shook the government, must be proactively taken up, she said.
"We see various protest movements across the country, relating to land, forest, water and livelihood, tribal and gender issues. Our party must proactively take up these causes," said Gandhi.
She exhorted party leaders to understand the new India, keeping in mind the flash mobs that sprang up in the national capital on the gang-rape issue and caught the government unawares.
"We have to recognise the new changing India, an India increasingly peopled by a younger, more aspirational, more impatient, more demanding and a better-educated generation," she said.
"Our youth is getting more assertive, it wants its voice to be heard," she said.
Sonia Gandhi, who is also the UPA chairperson, also noted that there was a need to strike a balance between allies and government policies.
The remark is significant in view of the fact that several allies have been opposing various policies and economic reform measures of the Congress-led UPA government.
Sonia highlighted the fact that the last nine years of UPA rule was a period of tremendous economic growth, social change and technological innovation.
As regards the recent tensions between India and Pakistan following the killing of two Indian soldiers on the LoC, Sonia said that dialogue with neighbours must be based on accepted principles of civilised behaviour.
"Better and closer relations with our immediate neighbours will not only make for regional peace -- they will also have a positive impact on some of our own border states," she said. "However, let us be clear. Our dialogue must be based on accepted principles of civilised behaviour. We will never compromise on our vigil and preparedness to deal with terrorism and threats on our borders."
The Congress president noted that women’s security was on top of the party’s agenda, and added the issue must be discussed at length.
"Atrocities on women, both in urban and rural India are a blot on our collective conscience and a matter of shame," Gandhi said.
The party is also concerned about the poor and backward classes, Sonia said, and added that inclusive growth is not a party ploy but a conviction.
She also had a word of advice for partymen - to be austere.
“Lavish weddings will lead to questions on where money came from,” she said, adding brazen display of wealth corrupts people.
The conclave will be followed by a session of the AICC on Sunday.
Among the leaders present on the dais included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister AK Antony, Rahul Gandhi, Motilal Vora and Ambika Soni.
First Published: Friday, January 18, 2013, 14:49