At a function to commemorate the 125th Foundation Day of the Congress, party president Sonia Gandhi paid glowing tributes to former premiers Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, but made no reference to P V Narasimha Rao, who was prime minister between 1991 and 1996.
Gandhi sought to give credit to Rajiv Gandhi for the economic liberalisation in the Narsimha Rao regime when Manmohan Singh was the finance minister.
"Rajivji did not live to see the India of his dreams become a reality but he left his personal imprint on the party's manifesto of 1991. This became the basis of our economic policies in the five years thereafter. These policies imparted a new strength and direction to our economy and society," she said.
Against the backdrop of a raging political storm over Telangana, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the country was facing 'big challenges' like regionalism, Naxalism and communalism, and the Congress alone has the capacity to tackle them.
"Our party's politics is aimed at uniting the society and the country and not dividing it. Our party is ready to accommodate every shade of opinion within the four walls of the Constitution," he said.
"We believe in resolving the grievances and difficulties of people having different views through dialogue," he said at the function.
The prime minister said that in spite of the progress achieved since Independence, the country was facing new types of challenges and listed terrorism as one of the biggest challenges before India.
Recalling Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Singh said his remarks -- that the nation needed the Congress as never before -- were relevant even today.
"Today, the Congress is the only party that can take the country on the fast track of progress by keeping it united," he said while telling partymen that the Congress mission was not yet complete and "we have a big responsibility towards the nation".
Appealing to partymen to bring the organisation closer to the common man, Dr Singh said the strength of any political party depended upon how deeply it is rooted in the society.
"I am confident that in the future, our party will rise to newer heights under Soniaji's leadership. Let us strengthen her hands for a brighter future," the prime minister said.
In her address, Gandhi hailed the prime minister for leading the country with 'great wisdom and sagacity', earning respect both at home and abroad.
She said the hard work and dedication of the party workers, without wavering from basic ideals, has brought the Congress back to power at the Centre for the second time, shaking off the days when its very existence was questioned.
Apparently referring to the National Democratic Alliance rule at the Centre, Gandhi
recalled that the years that followed saw 'some of the most difficult moments' in the party's history.
"Doubts were raised about our party's very existence. Nonetheless, we soldiered on, anchored in our core values and overcame many seemingly insurmountable odds," she said.
Attributing the 'success' of the Congress to the partymen, she said, "It is on the strength of their commitment and struggle that our great organisation has reached such heights."
She said the Congress has a unique relationship with the people of the country. "It has mirrored their aspirations. It has reflected their hopes and has been a vehicle for their accomplishments," Gandhi said.
The prime minister listed 6.7 per cent economic growth, achieved in the backdrop of financial slowdown, implementation of rural job guarantee scheme, loan waiver for farmers, launching of the national rural health mission and bringing transparency in governance through the Right to Information Act as achievements of his government.
The 125th year celebrations of the party are based on the theme "building the future on the foundation of the past". The Congress has drawn up a list of 32 personalities whose services to the nation will be showcased prominently during the celebrations.
The party will also remember events and places associated with the freedom struggle like the Jalianwala Bagh massacre, Champaran movement of Gandhiji, Chauri Chaura, Swaraj Bhavan, Dandi March, Cellular Jail of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Quit India Movement. Programmes have been circulated to the party units at the block, district and state levels.