NEW DELHI: It was a Whatsapp message sent to a media group, “Rahul Gandhi has left for London’’, quoting sources, that triggered an unprecedented late night response — a vehement denial — from the Congress media chief Randeep Surjewala, stating the Rahul was off to Aspen in the United States for a think-fest and not on vacation, as in the past.
For the Congress, which has always been cagey about disclosing personal itinerary of the Gandhi family - there’s no official information yet on where and how Rahul spent his sabbatical or on Sonia Gandhi’s medical treatment abroad, this was unusual step, to say the least. What’s more, Surjewala has issued a second detailed statement on Wednesday, this time not only refuting the London-visit rumour but also countering the BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra’s jibe.
Patra had remarked that Congress Vice President had to go a “forced vacation’’ as the party’s grand allies in Bihar, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, did not want him around for campaigning. “Rahul needed a foreign vacation after holding two rallies (one in Bihar another at Ramlila ground in Delhi) and thinking hard about farmers. It appears that the feedback the leaders of grand alliance got from Bihar made them call Congress to send him on a forced vacation because his stay anywhere near Bihar is going to harm their electoral chances,” Patra told the media, tongue in cheek.
This is not the first time that the BJP has targeted Rahul on his frequent ‘vacations’. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, while replying to the charges put against her by the Congress in the Lalit Modi controversy, had scathingly remarked on Rahul’s vacations. His sabbatical to an undisclosed destination in the midst of the Budget session too had caused much embarrassment to the Congress. Since then, Rahul has appeared in new, more interactive avatars. Which is, probably, what emboldened the Congress to return the fire by a disclosure that Rahul will be attending a global conference in Aspen, Colorado, organised by renowned journalist Charlie Rose. And, it’s a “by invitation only’’ event, Surjewala harped on the last point.