Rahul Gandhi’s absence at a dinner hosted in honour of outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has evoked sharp reactions from Opposition parties, which accused him of “insulting” the PM, but Congress downplayed it saying Gandhi went abroad with his “permission”.
“Where has the Congress’ PM candidate gone? Should there be any such mysterious act in this manner. Sonia Gandhi had insulted (former Congress President) Sitaram Kesri. In similar manner, Rahul Gandhi has insulted Manmohan Singh, who headed their government for 10 years,” BJP leader Tarun Vijay said.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut also hit out at Rahul Gandhi, saying the Congress Vice President is behaving like a ‘shehzada’ (prince) as he is addressed by Narendra Modi.
“The Prime Minister governed India for 10 years. If you cannot spare time for him…how will you give time to your party and the country,” Raut said.
AAP leader Kumar Ashutosh said that Gandhi’s absence at the farewell dinner proves that “he is not ready to learn” to take “responsibility”.
Jumping to Gandhi’s defence, Congress, however, rubbished the allegations.
“The question of insult does not arise. Rahul Gandhi is abroad and he has gone there after thanking the Prime Minister and taking his permission. This has been made clear,” senior Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi said.
AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh reminded that Gandhi’s office had released a statement that the Congress Vice President had gone and called on the PM before going abroad.
Union Minister Rajiv Shukla hit out at the BJP and Shiv Sena for attacking the Congress Vice President, saying the two parties are in the habit of attacking the Gandhi family and Rahul in particular on a day to day basis.
Senior Congress leader Ajit Jogi said the Prime Minister’s farewell date was fixed very late due to which he, himself could not attend it while Rahul Gandhi was not available in the city.
PMO sources maintained that Gandhi had met the Prime Minister on Saturday to thank him and told him that he won’t be in town on Wednesday when the dinner was hosted.
There was speculation that Gandhi was probably travelling abroad and would be back before counting of votes for the Lok Sabha polls begins on Friday.
Congress leader Ajay Maken has said that after three months of “gruelling” campaigning, Gandhi had gone out of town for two days and he will be back on Thursday.
Amid reports that Congress plans to insulate Gandhi from the blame for the party’s widely predicted defeat, party general secretary Digvijay Singh said that no Congress leader including the party vice president has taken any shield in any circumstance.
“We can take victory and defeat in the same spirit,” he said.
“Wait for tomorrow” was his repeated refrain when asked whether Gandhi will take responsibility for whatever be the outcome of this Lok Sabha election results.
“He has never taken shelter against any adversity. Therefore I absolutely rule out that he will be hiding behind the screen,” he said.
Asked whether the results could put up a question mark on Gandhi’s leadership, Singh said, “Let the results come out. The party will do introspection. The party shall take a call. He (Rahul) is number 2 in the party. Congress President is the leader.”