Ahead of its brainstorming conclave in Udaipur, the Congress asserted on Thursday that it was the principal opposition party but was conscious of its "shortcomings" and was ready to ''transform'' itself by working on its ideology and organisation.
The party said it would introspect in the next three days to embark on a new direction by confronting various challenges and pave the way for the country's bright future.
The three-day Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir is being held in the backdrop of a string of electoral defeats and dissent in the party which has seen a sharp decline in the last seven years.
The shivir will focus on time-bound party restructuring, finding ways to combat politics of polarisation and getting battle-ready for upcoming electoral challenges.
Underlining the importance of the conclave, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that the Congress is the principal opposition party in the country and people had expectations from it.
This shivir is for the country and through it, the party will send a new message to people all over, he said.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the session is being held at a time when the country is facing the challenge of polarisation.
Politics of hatred and division is being played out in the country by the BJP and there is a need to find answers on how to tackle them, he said.
"There is a need to bring about organisational changes. At a time when the country is facing multiple challenges, it is natural that the Congress will discharge its responsibilities towards the people and articulate their concerns. That is why we are holding the Nav Sankalp Shivir," he told reporters.
"We know that the country has expectations from the Congress. We know we have limitations, we know we have shortcomings and we know that we need to improve our ideology and organisation further and adapt to the changing circumstances and transform ourselves. With this thought in mind, we have organised this Chintan Shivir," said Surjewala.
"The outcome of this conclave from the brave land of Udaipur, we feel that it will not just give direction to the Congress to tackle the present challenges but will also pave the way for India's golden future," he said.
Gehlot also said that there will never be a 'Congress-mukt Bharat' and those wishing so will themselves be decimated.
He asserted that the party has a long tradition of sacrifice, from former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi to former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, noting that the country has been run on the principles of the Congress.
It is saddening that despite this, those in power now ask what the Congress has done in the last 70 years, the Rajasthan chief minister said.
He alleged that the "'Constitution is being attacked, democracy is in danger and there is tension everywhere ".
"Media is under pressure and I salute those who are being fair and balanced. The way things are happening in the country, there is an atmosphere of tension and violence which is a cause of concern for every Indian," the Rajasthan chief minister told a press conference.
"This is not a normal Chintan Shivir. The Congress will have to give out a new message from this Shivir to the people of the country. The party will come up with a new 'Sankalp' from this conclave and then reach out to the people," Gehlot said.
Surjewala said the conclave is also aimed at deliberating on challenges facing the country such as "freefall of the economy", increasing inequality of wealth, price rise of essential commodities, and the "deep-rooted conspiracy" to hand over the farming sector to a select group of private corporates.
The "attack" on India's territorial integrity by China, the onslaught against rights of Dalits, SCs/STs, and minorities and attempts to divide by using Hindu-Muslim rhetoric will also be raised, he said.
"As India is plagued by the painful lines of division and hatred, it is obligatory on the Indian National Congress to defend the ethos of the Indian nation and find lasting solutions for peaceful co-existence," Surjewala said at the media briefing.
"We know that India expects us to review our organisational dexterity, capacity, capability, but also to adapt ourselves to the current situation and challenges," he said.
Surjewala alleged that the "bulldozer of bigotry", superstition, sectarianism, fanaticism, injustice and intolerance "heaped upon the nation" by the BJP government has to a large extent trampled upon India's march ahead.
"The Congress has chosen six subjects and constituted groups to examine and submit their primary reports on actionables for the same," he said.
These groups are political, social justice and empowerment, economy, Congress organisation, Kisan and Khet Mazdoor (farmers and farm workers) and youth.
These groups will present their first impressions for a conclusive discussion during the Shivir.
"The 450 invitees to the 'Chintan Shivir' will be divided amongst different groups and they shall discuss and deliberate over a period of three days, various facets and challenges, to lay down a roadmap.
"The conclusions shall be presented to the Congress president, and thereafter, to the Congress Working Committee, for final shape and approval," Surjewala said.
The roadmap will provide a way forward not only for the Congress to meet up with the current set of "reverses and challenges", but will also pave the way for a resilient, strong and inclusive nation, he said.
Rising to the aspirations of the nation, the Congress, will introspect, contemplate and reflect upon the way forward and new milestones to be traversed in the session, he said.
In a bid to overcome internal challenges and electoral setbacks, the Congress will focus on time-bound party restructuring for strengthening the organisation and evolving a strategy for future alliances.
Sending out a clear message to critics within the organisation, Congress president Sonia Gandhi at a CWC meeting earlier this week cautioned ahead of the session that self-criticism is needed in party forums but it should not be done to erode self-confidence and morale, as she asserted that it is time "to repay our debt to the party".
Gandhi had also warned that the Chintan Shivir should not become a ritual while asserting that she was determined that it should herald a restructured organisation to meet the many ideological, electoral and managerial tasks it confronts.
The issue of leadership in the Congress is not likely to be discussed at the Udaipur conclave, party sources said, though several leaders are likely to rake up the demand for Rahul Gandhi to take over the party leadership.