Rahul Gandhi vanishes to reflect; Congress in convulsions

New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani(dna): Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has taken a break “to reflect on the past and plan the party’s future strategy”. But no one in the party is confirming where he is headed.

Party workers are disappointed as they were preparing a grand show here on Wednesday against the land acquisition law and Rahul was supposed to lead them.

Some leaders described his break as a shock treatment in typical Rahul-style to her mother, who had been coming in the way of his revival plans, by protecting “dead wood”.

At Rahul Gandhi’s Tughlaq Road office, his aides told dna he was off, preparing for a party revival with due permission from his mother and Congress president. They also said preparations were also on for his complete takeover of the party and his current reflection period was a part of the process.

His aides also confirmed that he has gone alone, denying he was off to holidays with his girlfriend. At the AICC session slated in April, Rahul Gandhi is expected to be crowned as interim president. His post will be confirmed by September, when as part of the last leg of the party’s internal election process, he will be elected as president.

His decision to stay away has shocked political circles. Many leaders say it is unthinkable for a political party to not have its vice-president in Parliament to stand up and raise his voice.

What is the party’s official version?
Spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters that Rahul has been “granted a leave of absence for a few weeks after which he will return and resume his active participation in the affairs of the Congress party.” He, however, parried questions on Rahul’s takeover as party president from his mother. Nothing of that sort as yet in his knowledge, he said.

Has he gone abroad earlier?
Soon after the Delhi elections, Rahul was off for a two-day holiday in Bali. But he returned a day ahead of election results. A Congress general secretary said the party would not miss Rahul for long as he has taken only a short break.

Are there two camps in the party?
Party insiders said Rahul’s elevation to the president’s post may not go unchallenged.
Many leaders think they cannot allow the Congress to destroy itself, and so challenging Sonia and Rahul Gandhi is a must. Unlike Jitendra Prasada, who had given a symbolic fight to Sonia Gandhi, when she was crowned as president, Rahul may face a serious challenge. In fact, a senior leader said: “Congress could not be equated with Rahul or Sonia; in fact, they were just like the trustees of the Congress because of their pedigree – nothing more.”

Does Rahul’s leave has Sonia’s approval?
Sonia Gandhi was the first to break the news of Rahul’s absence. She told a TV channel that her son was on leave for a few days, when asked about his absence in Parliament on Monday. A senior party leader and a close aide of Sonia Gandhi said, “Rahul has taken approval from Sonia. Nobody has a leave letter. It was disclosed by Sonia herself.”

Is there any reorganisation plan in the party?
Party reorganisation is on the anvil. Rahul Gandhi has been conducting extensive discussions. Sonia Gandhi has written to all state units to hold district and block-wise workshops to get feedback about reorganisation. They have time till February 28 to submit proposals. After that, there will be a discussion at the centre.

What are Gandhi supporters’ views?
Congress and some of its leaders still believe that, in the absence of any ideology, the party cannot survive without the Gandhi-Nehru family. When Sonia offered to resign in the aftermath of the Lok Sabha election debacle, she was told by CWC members that they would finish the party in her absence.