Forty-three days after Rahul Gandhi began his leave of absence, with 19 more days — we were told Monday — to go, the Congress remains ignorant of his bliss. Or, is it the other way around?
The Indian Express went knocking on the doors of party leaders Digvijaya Singh, Motilal Vora, Madhusudan Mistry, Ambika Soni, Manish Tewari, Mohan Prakash, Randeep Surjewala and Meenakshi Natarajan. More than one of them can claim some amount of proximity with their party vice-president. Each one had the same answer, “I don’t know where he is… I think nobody knows.”
Congressmen aren’t exactly known for being kept in the know. Still, as Rahul approaches the record set by the late Kim Jong-il on a leader disappearing from public sight (he clocked 80 days), they have come around to believe that not knowing where he is doesn’t mean a lack of transparency in the party. And that the party carrying forward Rahul’s anti-land Bill campaign without him doesn’t mean that nobody feels his absence.
“I don’t know where he is and nobody instructed me to say that. I don’t know and I am not interested in knowing either,” said Soni. The fuss about Rahul’s absence was because “in India, we do not have the concept of people in public life seeking out personal time. He is a young leader, entitled to follow his own ideas,” she said.
Tewari also saw in Rahul’s absence a desire “to be on his own”. “I have no clue where he is and I see no reason why I should know about it. Every individual has the right to private time. Just because he happens to be a political leader doesn’t take away that right from him,” he said.
Party spokesperson Surjewala said Rahul was doing what he is said to be doing — deliberating on how to “strengthen” the party. “I don’t know where he is but I know he is not on a holiday. He has taken time off to reflect on how to strengthen the Congress. I see it as an extremely mature step,” Surjewala said.
Insisting that his interest in Rahul’s whereabouts was limited to knowing he was well, Mistry, who owes his Delhi clout to the Gandhi scion, said, “I do not know where he is but I deeply care for him. I wish him well and hope to see him among us soon.”
Digvijaya said Rahul would be back in action soon, and it was “alright” to not know where he was. “As party workers the fact that president (Sonia Gandhi) is around is good enough.”
Seeking to close the chapter, Vora said, “It is not important where Rahul is. What is important is that he is coming back soon.” Trust they aren’t keeping a count.