Rahul returns from sabbatical, hope fuels Congress

rahulgandhiNEW DELHI: The Congress on Thursday suggested that the “Rahul era” had begun shortly after party vice-president Rahul Gandhi returned from his 56-day sabbatical for “introspection”. “Rahul Gandhi Congress aur desh ka netrutva karenge (Rahul Gandhi will lead the Congress and the nation),” the party said.

Though the Congress is tight-lipped about where Gandhi was from February 23 to April 15, the party’s chief spokesman, Randeep Surjewala, said: “There is great enthusiasm, elation and happiness among crores of Congressmen with the return of the Congress vice-president post his introspection.”

Gandhi would be meeting party leaders, including PCC chiefs and CLP leaders, and interacting with the media. The CWC could also meet, either for his elevation or to decide a date for the AICC meeting, insiders said.

Gandhi has no issue on meeting those senior Congress leaders who have reservations about his leadership, the party said.

Surjewala, in charge of the AICC’s communication department, said, “Rahulji is a very seasoned, mature leader and every Congressman is always welcome to meet him. Rahulji has always met anybody who wants to meet him, without inhibition.”

He was asked whether Gandhi would be ready to meet leaders like Capt. Amarinder Singh, Sheila Dikshit and Sandeep Dikshit, who have underlined the need for sonia Gandhi to continue as party chief and had expressed reservations about Gandhi occupying the top slot.

The 44-year-old leader arrived here at 11.15 am on a Thai Airways plane from Bangkok, ending days of intense speculation over his return and amidst celebrations by party workers who burst crackers outside his residence.

Wearing a dark shirt and seated in the back seat of his vehicle, he arrived home escorted by his security personnel. He did not interact with the waiting media.

The plane, which was scheduled to land at 10.35 am, was delayed by 40 minutes, sources said. Shortly later, Gandhi drove to his 12, Tughlaq Lane residence where his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka were waiting.
But there was no news about where he had spent his leave of absence, which began on the eve of the Budget Session of Parliament.

He is slated to participate in the farmers’ rally organised by the party here on Sunday against the land acquisition ordinance.

A section of the Congress, especially former chief ministers M. Veerappa Moily, Capt. Amarinder Singh and Sheila Dikshit, has been raising questions openly about whether Gandhi should be elevated or  Gandhi should continue as party chief.

But these questions suggest that the young Gandhi cannot be the unanimous choice of the party.
Meanwhile, Surjewala told reporters that Gandhi would give the right impetus to the Congress’ thrust to put people’s issues at the centre of the national agenda.

“Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have provided leadership, have guided the party through ups and downs, and have enthused the cadre with their charismatic leadership,” he said, adding their leadership “is the need of the hour”.

Asked where Gandhi had gone, and whether he had been in Myanmar for a Vipasana meditation course, Jewala said; “What is more important is that the leave of absence was for introspection and not vacation … To work with greater vigour. I am not entering into the speculation of physical location or place.

“He is a mature political leader of the country’ oldest party. He has thought about invigoration. In the days to come he will interact with partymen as also friends of the media …. to bring back its inherent strength.”

The loyalist Mani Shankar Aiyar dismissed questions raised over Gandhi’s capabilities, saying the media and critics were looking for negative aspects while “99.9 percent” of Congress workers were confident about his abilities.

“Now that he has come the party and everyone should look forward to the future,” Aiyar said, a view shared by his colleagues P.C. Chacko and Anand Sharma.

Meanwhile, Chacko said a number of pending decisions will be taken by the Congress president and vice-president.

He indicated a meeting would be held any time after April 19 to finalise the dates for the CWC, where a number of amendments are to be made. – Edited from Asian Age

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