NEW DELHI: The battle was called, but in an unexpected turn of events, Congress scion Rahul Gandhi has gone AWOL. This came just as the Opposition was going into a Budget sure of its capacity to embarrass the government and freelance dissenter Anna Hazare was back at Jantar Mantar — that too on prime time — with farmers aggrieved over the Land Ordinance Bill.
Rahul Gandhi has chosen this delicate moment of battle to go into a three-week sabbatical — “for introspection”.
The official reason cited was that Rahul needed time to “reflect both on recent events related to the party and its future course”.
Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “He believes that the AICC session (expected in early April) is vital and he would like to give specific inputs on it. He wants to do introspection with what happened with regard to the Congress in recent times and earlier.” The leave application for the Budget session of Parliament was made to his mother and current Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Speculation was rife that this presaged some sort of overhaul of the Congress party structure.
A general secretary said that rather than this being a sign of a possible exit from politics, it is in fact a serious play for the top slot — the party presidentship. Word is that Rahul has been quite miffed with the lobbies around the party president, including general secretaries. A top Congress insider revealed that Rahul is “preparing a list of people he wants in his team and is upping the pressure so as to get himself a carte blanche. Only if he can come in with his chosen people would he be willing to take up a top slot perhaps at the forthcoming AICC session”.
Whatever the inner Congress dynamics, to the public eye Rahul’s sudden ill-timed retreat looks like petulant defeatism in the wake of the washout in the Delhi elections.
The fact that the agitation building up currently revolves around an issue that he had identified himself with and championed in Bhatta Parsaul, western Uttar Pradesh, and Niyamgiri, Odisha, makes it that much more a self-goal.