In an apparent move to send out a message of austerity, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on Friday took a bus ride along with other leaders to Surajkund in Haryana where the party is having a brain storming meeting.
However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will not go to Surajkund by bus due to security reasons.
Sonia Gandhi and Rahul travelled in the same bus occupying the front seats.They were accompanied by senior party leaders Ahmed Patel and Ambika Soni.
Ministers including A K Antony, P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad and C P Joshi were also in the same bus.
Two buses are taking the Congress top brass to Surajkund.
Union ministers and top Congress leaders will attend the brainstorming session which comes at a time when the party and the government are facing tough challenges on political and economic fronts.
A review of the functioning of the government is expected to be made at the meeting, the first exercise of its kind in the UPA-II at a time when the party and the government are facing tough challenges and are grappling with a series of scams.
The day-long "dialogue session" is likely to chalk out the strategy ahead. It may also take a view on the issue of alliances in different states.
The Congress has utilised bus rides by local leaders to project a picture of unity and to connect with the common man during state elections in past.
Party sources said that the dialogue meeting (Samvad Baithak) will virtually set the agenda for the larger brainstorming at Chintan Shivir, which is likely to be
organised in January next year.
Sonia Gandhi's opening remarks at the meeting will set the tone for the discussion on current political situation in the meeting after which the Prime Minister will brief the leaders on the economic challenges and the measures initiated by the government.
The dialogue session comes after the public meeting in New Delhi on November 4, which saw Sonia and Rahul strongly backing the economic reform measures initiated by the Prime Minister.
The session will discuss three topics - present political situation, economic challenges and status of implementation of 2009 party manifesto.
Ahead of the meeting, party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said a total of 70 leaders including 23 Cabinet ministers, 12 ministers of state (independent charge), 19 members of Congress Working Committee and 16 permanent invitees to the CWC will be attending the deliberations.
Interestingly, party chief ministers have not been invited for the session with the AICC saying they along with the PCC chiefs will be called for the Chintan Shivir likely in January next year.