Congressmen who have been going to great lengths to defend Rahul Gandhi’s extraordinary “leave of absence” have just gone farther: about 7,000 km and over 1,100 years.
Mukul Sangma, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, told The Sunday Express that Rahul’s contemplation in solitude — now 45 days long and counting — was like the medieval English king Alfred’s mysterious disappearance after defeat in battle, an absence from which he had come out stronger and more successful.
“We know (where Rahul is). Who says we don’t know? But why should I tell you where? When we are required to share certain things, we will share. But certain things we will not share. Suppose I also have my own strategy which I don’t want to share with anybody, I will tell my friends please don’t tell anybody. It is a strategy,” Sangma said.
“There are certain strategies, some secret plans that leaders always have. If you read stories, read history, Alfred the Great after he lost the battle, he needed to plan, think and ideate and come up with another formula to defeat the enemy. So every politician will have some strategy which cannot be shared with everybody. It is only an appropriate approach. How he wants to do it is his prerogative,” he said.
Alfred of Wessex ruled for three decades before his death in 899 AD, by which time he had become England’s most powerful king. Legend, backed by some historical evidence, has it that at one point during these years, Alfred suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Viking armies, and retreated for some time into the marshlands.
He subsequently re-emerged to win a decisive victory, which set in motion a continuous process of Danish retreat and the expansion of his own power across England.
Rahul vanished from public on February 23, the day Parliament met in its Budget session. Before Sangma, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has claimed to know where he is — having said that Rahul is in India, and would be present at a farmers’ rally on April 19. Former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid has said that Rahul is safe, wherever he may be.
Sangma, who is about to complete five years as CM, argued that “the debacle of the party is not the debacle of one individual (Rahul)”.
He said, “We all know that the aspiration of the people is very high. The new generation is looking for good things to happen. They are less patient. The party had a coalition government. Party also had to pay the price because of the coalition politics. Resultant outcome was that there was a strong anti-establishment feeling, anti-incumbency… a feeling which has been exploited to a great extent by the opposition.”
Rahul, Sangma said, “is a vibrant and dynamic leader who connects easily with the dreams and aspirations of the new generation”.
Sangma accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of not delivering on promises made to the Northeast.
“Even after the election (he) announced certain things. Northeast is the ideal place for organic farming… There was an announcement this much money will be allocated to you. I am trying to find out whether they have released even one rupee out of the allocated fund.
Announcement is one thing, but actual doing is another thing. One must translate into actions the promises made,” he said.
The Chief Minister said his government would start residential schools on the lines of Navodaya Vidyalayas in rural areas, increase coverage of the health insurance scheme for the poor to Rs 2 lakh, and scale up infrastructure in secondary and higher secondary schools.
He was also working to build Shillong into an international education hub, Sangma said.