The UPA government came under sharp attack at the Congress conclave on Friday, with a large number of delegates criticising it for ignoring urban youth in its nine years of policy-making and focussing largely on rural issues.
The matter was broached by Maharashtra's Sanjay Nirupam and Delhi's Ajay Maken at a meeting of one of the five groups - the one on emerging political challenges headed by defence minister AK Antony.
It soon became a chorus, with Gujarat's Tushar Choudhary citing the urban youth's disillusionment with the Congress, as was seen at the recent assembly elections in his state. Some participants said the disconnect has led to the new phenomenon of flash mobs.
On a different note, parliamentarians Raj Babbar and Avtar Singh Bhadana demanded that Rahul Gandhi be declared the PM candidate.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi attended the meetings of all five groups. Some important views on key issues emerged from the other meetings as well.
The view that dominated the meeting of this group - headed by health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad - was that the election machinery and party managers should be separated. Some participants suggested that instead of contesting polls, important party functionaries should focus on strengthening the party in states. Finance minister P Chidambaram said states where the Congress is weak should be handed to people below 35 years of age so the party could be revived.
Delegates from West Bengal and Bihar, led by MoS urban development, Deepa Dasmunsi, strongly opposed alliance politics, arguing it weakens the party. Rahul Gandhi's youth brigade said alliances restrict growth and expansion of the organisation. The predominant view, however, was that coalition politics was here to stay.
In the group India and the World - led by commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma - a large number of participants maintained that on many occasions, the political leadership and the security establishment were not on the same page. They stressed on synergy between the two. Referring to the recent ceasefire violations by Pakistan, some delegates sought a hardened stand.
The brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old girl reverberated at the meeting of this group, led by MP Girija Vyas, with a large number of delegates calling for strict laws to check sexual offences against women. Gandhi said women's empowerment should start from home.