As MPs get down to work, Rahul goes on casual leave

New Delhi :  Personally, he is not much of a parliamentarian and numerically at 44 his Congress party — though single largest on the opposition benches — does not carry much of a weight in terms of the proceedings.

So, vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s surprising decision to seek a ‘sabbatical from the party’ for a few weeks as the budget session of Parliament go underway does not count for much either way.

But it has ignited a major controversy with speculation running wild and covering the entire gamut of things like running away from politics or sulking over his differences with the party’s old guard. For the sake of record everything has been denied.

Facing a barrage of questions, party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi condemned and denied such unjustifiable questions. He said that Rahul had requested the Congress President that he needs a few weeks’ time to “reflect both on recent events related to the party and its future course” as he believes that this “introspection” is vital for the party.

“He (Rahul) believes that the AICC session (expected in the first week of April) is vital and he would like to give specific inputs on this. He wants to introspect over what happened with regard to the Congress in recent times and earlier,” Singhvi added while asserting that after applying his mind on these issues, Rahul will “return to resume his active participation in political affairs of the Congress. “All other speculations are denied and condemned. They are unfair,” he added.

Sonia Gandhi also tried to put a lid on the affair as she said: “Whatever we wanted to say has been said. I am not going to add anything to this.”

But the BJP was the first to mock Gandhi for this move. “It is the NDA government’s first budget and he is holidaying. There will be questions about his interest in politics and the country’s affairs,” said union minister and BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy. For good measure the party added that the people had already sent the Congress on a long leave.

Even within the Congress there was muted criticism of this approach. ‘‘Where is the question of his taking leave? He has been virtually on leave ever since we lost the elections nine months ago, and is hardly seen in public. Besides, hasn’t he been interacting with leaders and introspecting so far over these last few months,” said a two term MP who had lost in May 2014. But senior general secretaries were firmly behind Rahul, and ruled out any differences within the party. ‘‘There is no question of his sulking. Neither is he going to give up politics. If he wants to take off for a few days, we must respect that and give him his space,” said a senior general secretary. The party leaders seems pretty certain that he is set for the prime leadership role, and though they do not talk in terms of dates and events, they indicate that Rahul is all set to take over as the party president.

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