NEW DELHI (TIP): Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on April 16 returned to Delhi from his almost two-month long “unexplained” sabbatical, which had raised questions over his leadership of the party that is struggling to find its feet after a string of electoral defeats.
The 44-year-old leader arrived here at 11.15am 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 escorted by his security personnel and drove straight into the house without interacting with the waiting mediapersons.
The return of Rahul comes ahead of the party’s planned farmers’ rally here on the contentious land bill issue which he is likely to address.
The plane, which was scheduled to land at 10.35am, was delayed by 40 minutes, sources said. Shortly later, Rahul drove to his 12, Tughlaq Lane residence where his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka were waiting.
Rahul had left quietly before the Budget session began on February 23 but it is still not known where he had spent the days.
The party had then said that he “requested Congress president Sonia Gandhi for some time to reflect on recent events and future course of the party”.
Ever since the announcement of his temporary break from political life, there has been speculation that he was unhappy with not getting a free hand to run the party, a contention which the party has officially denied.
Rahul’s leave had come amid talk of an AICC session, where he was expected to be elevated as Congress president.
During his absence, several party leaders including former chief ministers Amarinder Singh and Sheila Dikshit came out in the open pitching for Sonia Gandhi to continue as president and raised questions over his leadership.
Congress leaders had announced that Rahul would be back by April 19 as he would be addressing a farmers’ rally on land bill issue at the Ramlila maidan here on that day.
The rally is being held on the eve of the second phase of the Budget session of Parliament.
Rahul had skipped the first phase which saw the Congress taking on the government over the land bill issue.
Party leaders voiced confidence that Rahul will provide leadership with dynamism and commitment and take pro-active measures.
“He is back and I have no doubt that he will be not only taking proactive measures but also with dynamism, with commitment provide leadership,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said, adding that farmers’ issue has been close to Rahul’s heart.
There are no ‘item numbers’ in politics: BJP
The BJP, meanwhile, took potshots at the Congress vice-president, saying he “ran away” as he had lost all confidence.
“From Nehru to Rahul, it is the withering away of the dynasty,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.
“The Congress Party is saying that Mr Rahul Gandhi will conduct a successful kisan rally, to which we would say there is no item number in Indian politics or politics as such.
You can’t just reappear, attend a rally and then vanish again. You have to be serious,” Sambit Patra said. He added that Rahul’s return from his sabbatical had hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
HAS HIS TASK CUT OUT
Lucknow (TIP): A contingent of party workers from Amethi will meet Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi next week to brief him on issues his constituency was facing during his near 2-month long sabbatical.
The issues include rain-damaged crops and the subsequent plight of farmers.
Amethi’s district Congress president Yogendra Mishra said, “We will inform Rahul about the NDA government’s move to cancel the permission for the Shaktiman Mega Food Park. Rahul had laid the foundation stone of the park in 2013. On Wednesday, a protest was organised in Jagdishpur against cancellation of permission for the food park. More such agitations will be planned in the coming days.”
“Work on Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology has virtually stopped due to delay in allocation of funds. The state government is extending full cooperation but the Modi-led government is obstructing implementation of development schemes in Amethi. A sanctioned central hospital has also been delayed. We will meet Rahul and inform him about unfolding developments in the constituency,” said Mohammad Muslim, Congress MLA from Tiloi, Amethi.
The contingent will meet Rahul on April 20 but they will be in the Capital a day early to attend the ‘Kisan-mazdoor’ (farmer-worker) rally.