Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former party chief Rahul Gandhi on Monday gave the party's 136th Foundation Day event a miss with senior leader A K Antony unfurling the flag at the All India Congress Committee headquarters in New Delhi.
Sonia Gandhi, however, later in a video message urged the party leaders and workers to unite in 'fighting dictatorship' in the country and protecting its democracy, Constitution and people.
Addressing party workers on the 136th foundation day of the party, Gandhi claimed that the country is going through difficult times as prevailing before independence.
Congratulating the Congress leaders and workers on the completion of 135 years of the party's formation, she said it has traversed the path from freedom struggle till now for achieving the values of 'patriotism, fearlessness, selflessness, selfless service towards humanity, brotherhood and the country's unity and integrity'.
"Today, once again the circumstances are similar to those existing before independence. The rights of people are being crushed, there is dictatorship everywhere, and democratic and constitutional institutions are being finished.
"Unemployment is at its peak, farms and fields are being attacked and black laws are being imposed on the country's 'annadata' (food provider). In such circumstances, it is our responsibility to save the country from such dictatorship and fight it. This is true patriotism," Gandhi said in her video message.
Urging the Congressmen to strengthen the party at every level, she said it is the hope of the people of the country.
"We will have to unite to save the pride and honour of the tricolour, under which we achieved our nation's freedom.
"We have to win over the hearts of people. We should take a pledge on the Congress's foundation day to fight to protect the country's democracy, Constitution and the countrymen for whom we will fight till our last breath," she added.
A number of senior party functionaries, including AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, were present at the event.
Some of the 'letter-writers' like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma, who had sought an organisational overhaul in the party, besides Sachin Pilot who revolted against the Congress government in Rajasthan sometime ago, were also in attendance.
While Sonia Gandhi has been avoiding attending public events, Rahul Gandhi left on a short personal visit abroad on Sunday.
Rahul Gandhi, however, put out a tweet along with a three-minute video highlighting the contributions of the Congress in the freedom movement.
'The Congress is committed from the beginning to raise the voice in favour of the nation. Today, on the Congress foundation day, we reiterate our pledge towards truth and equality. Jai Hind,' he tweeted in Hindi.
In another tweet, he said, 'The country can never become self-sufficient without the self-sufficiency of the farmer. Take back the anti-agricultural law. Save farmers, save the country.'
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi also tweeted, saying, 'The Indian National Congress is an organization formed from the freedom struggle and united with Indianness. Equality, inclusiveness and strengthening of the country is our basic resolve.'
"Congratulations to the leadership and workers who strengthened the thinking of Congress for 136 years," she said on the occasion.
After the Foundation Day event, Priyanka Gandhi told reporters that the government should listen to the voice of farmers and not dub the agitation a 'political conspiracy'.
Thousands of farmers are camping on Delhi's borders to press for the repeal of three new central agriculture laws.
"To say that this is a political conspiracy is wrong. I feel that the words being used for farmers are a sin. The government is answerable to the farmers and the government should talk to the farmers and take back the laws," she said.
She did not answer queries on Rahul Gandhi's absence.
The Congress also launched a campaign on social media 'SelfieWithTiranga' with party leaders posting messages to mark the day along with their pictures with the tricolour.
The party observed the day by taking out 'Tiranga Yatras' in several cities across the country.
The Congress also put out a video of the party's achievements during the freedom struggle.
'The Congress has completed 135 years of its journey and even today the country faces challenges similar to British rule and even today Congress stands rock-solid to safeguard the soul, the constitution, the democracy and the ethos of Bharat Mata,' the party tweeted.