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Jan 18, 2013 at 07:26pm IST

Connect with young India, balance allies and policies: Sonia to Congress leaders

New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday sent 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. Addressing the gathering, Sonia 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."

"Across the length and breadth of our country, people are expecting much more from the political parties," said Sonia, as she read out from her speech. "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.

Sonia pointed out that there was a disconnect between the party leadership and the younger India, and even questioned the lavish display of wealth by some of the party leaders.

While claiming that the Congress was the only party which existed in every village and city of the country, she did not elaborate on how that party was planning to address its decline in big states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. She asked the leaders to look at the Congress's strengths and weaknesses, and suggest ways to deal with the threats the party faced.

'Strike balance between allies, policies'

With an eye on the 2014 General Elections, and the trouble the party has faced from its allies in the recent past over crucial reforms, Sonia exhorted the members to be proactive and ensure that there is a balance between its policies on one hand and the allies on the other.

Emphasising on better coordination among the leaders, she said that the Congress had missed several opportunities because the party failed to work as a team.

Sonia express 'anguish' 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."

'Fight against inequality, poverty continues'

The UPA chairperson admitted that the mammoth task of the fight against inequality and upliftment of the poor continued. "Our fight against inequality and poverty continues. There are success stories of development. Footprints of achievements are expanding. There are compelling arguments on Congress's way of thinking and the Congress's way of doing things. We have a prudent record of accomplishments. We deal with all sections of society, we uplift the weaker sections of the society, the Dalits, the poor, the OBCs and women. Inclusiveness to us is not a political ploy to win elections. It is our conviction."

However, Sonia continued, no other country "faces the challenge of one crore youth looking for jobs every year". "We see various protest movements relating to land, water and livelihood. Our party must take note of this," she added.

Sonia further said, "Development and economic growth and social harmony are two sides of the same coin. There are some states where we have dealt (with issues) out of office. Being in power is not the sole purpose of political activity."

On relations with neighbours

Emphasising on peaceful ties with neighbouring countries, Sonia, however, 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 January 8. "Improving our economic performance, keeping our secular values, better and closer relations with our immediate neighbour will not only make immediate peace. However, let us be very clear, it should be based on principle of civilised behaviour."

What Sonia didn't say

- How will Congress deal with problem of looking for new allies?

- Is Rahul Gandhi the Congress's PM candidate?

- What's the roadmap to deal with the economic chaos before the country?

- How can the Congress connect itself with the 'aam aadmi'?

- How will the Congress deal with its age of problem of sychophancy?