India is now better "informed and equipped" than ever before and its people now demand more from their leaders, Congress president Sonia Gandhi told a crucial party conclave in Jaipur on Friday.
She said that the citizens were "rightly fed up with the levels of corruption" in public life at high levels as well as in their daily lives and that it was a phenomenon that "we must understand and continue to respond to".
"Aided by the tools of the modern world- television, social media, mobile phones and the internet, today's India is better informed and better equipped to communicate," said Gandhi Gandhi at the three-day conclave called Chintan Shivir, which will chart the party's course for the 2014 general elections.
"Today's India is a better informed and equipped community. The technology we facilitated leads electorate to ask more of its leaders."
"We cannot allow growing educated middle classes to be alienated from the political process," said Gandhi, probably hinting at allegations that the Congress-led UPA government was insensitive to popular opinion.
"We cannot allow our growing, educated middle classes to be disillusioned and alienated from the political process," she said.
Gandhi urged party leaders and workers to "seriously" debate issues facing the debate and set aside "personal ambition."
"We should be coming together setting aside personal ambitions and egos, so that the party thrives".
Asking the Congress to look at its strengths, weaknesses and threats, Gandhi said: "There is increased competition and inroads have been made in our traditional strongholds. We have to strike a fine balance between respecting alliances and ensuring rejuvenation of the party."
She asked partymen to observe austerity. "Lavish weddings will lead to questions on where money came from," she said.
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 meet is being held at the 1,200-capacity Birla auditorium in the heart of Jaipur. The auditorium and the city have been specially decorated to welcome delegates.
Around 350 delegates, including central ministers, All India Congress Committee (AICC) leaders, state unit chiefs and Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leaders, besides members of youth Congress and NSUI, will attend.
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.