Jaipur: The two-day Congress Chitan Shivir began on Friday with party president Sonia Gandhi asking party leaders to address issues concerning corruption, safety of women and problems faced by the poor and middles classes.
She said, India is now better "informed and equipped" than ever before and its people now demand more from their leaders.
"Our citizens are not only concerned about corruption in public life in high places, they are also concerned over corruption in daily life. We must understand their concerns and respond to them", said Sonia at the party conclave, which will chart the party's course for the 2014 general elections.
She went on to say that the party cannot allow the growing educated middle classes to be alienated from the political process. She urged party leaders and workers to "seriously" debate issues and set aside "personal ambition."
Emphasing on better coordination among the leaders, she said that the Congress has floundered several opportunities because the party failed to work as a team.
"We should be coming together setting aside personal ambitions and egos, so that the party thrives".
Sonia asked party leaders to address concerns mentioned by citizens in the social media, TV and internet, as most of the people in the country now belong to the young generation.
The party president also deplored ostentatious weddings, saying that "celebrating wedding and festival is one thing, but lavishness and ostentation begs the question as where the money is coming from".
In the wake of the Delhil gangrape 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."
Top Congress leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, will attend the strategy meet, to discuss issues like political and economic challenges, foreign affairs, women's empowerment, and organisational strength.
The session will conclude on January 20 with the AICC session, likely to be attended by over 1,200 delegates from across the country.
The consensus reached here will be formally adopted by the AICC as the Jaipur Declaration.
Bigger role for Rahul?
As speculation remains rife on Rahul Gandhi being given a bigger role in the Congress at its strategy meet here, senior leaders in the party said the general secretary was already playing a key role and should not be forced into anything.
"As far as Rahul is concerned, don't force him. Let him chalk out his own life, his own road map... He is already leading the group to make the 2014 election plan. He is leading the youth wing, the NSUI," Digvijaya Singh said about the 42-year-old son of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
"Rahul Gandhi is the general secretary of the party, he is in the coordination committee, he has enough work to do," added party leader B.K. Hariprasad.
There has been speculation that at the Chintan Shivir -- the brainstorming session --of the party here, he would be assigned a bigger role.