Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls due in about 15 months, Gandhi spoke about the strengths and weaknesses of the Congress on the opening day of a 3-day conclave here at which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and the entire leadership is present.
The brainstorming conclave (Chintan Shivir) was a forum for an "honest conversation among ourselves", she told Union Ministers, Chief Ministers and hundreds of other participants.
"We are here on serious business which will determine our future and we must go from here recharged and reinvigorated," the party President told the participants.
Gandhi said while Congress continued to be the nation's pre-eminent political party, "we must admit that we now faced increased competition and inroads have been made into our traditional support bases."
Listing five challenges, including political and the emerging social and economic concerns, the atrocities on women and children, she said the atrocities on women, both in urban and rural India, "are a blot on our collective conscience and a matter of great shame."
"The way we still treat widows, the trafficking of children and women, the brazen sexual harassment--these are all very disturbing trends that should shake and awaken us," she said.