While the Congress’s floor managers in Lok Sabha were hoping that Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of Congress Parliamentary Party, would chair a meeting of party MPs in Parliament at 10.15 am, and messages had even gone out to some MPs that she may attend the meeting, there was a change of plan at the last minute.
A message from 10, Janpath said the former Congress president Sonia Gandhi had taken off to Rajasthan to be with son and party MP Rahul Gandhi, who is leading the Bharat Jodo Yatra in the state.
Most Congress MPs were glued to television screens anyway on Thursday morning, catching the results of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls.
It later became clear that Sonia Gandhi had taken off to Jaipur, on way to Ranthambore, where she will celebrate her 76th birthday on Friday with her children, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, at a resort owned by a close friend of the family.
Friday is a rest day for the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Priyanka, too, has reached Rajasthan.
While the Congress was decimated in Gujarat, it was a bittersweet moment for Priyanka, as the Congress returned to power in Himachal Pradesh, where she had led the party’s campaign.
The yatra did not have the evening leg on Thursday. The yatra has two parts — 13 to 14 km from 6.30 am to 10.30 am, followed by a five-hour break; and then a 7 to 8 km, or even up to 10 km, march in the evening.
On Thursday, Rahul was in Kota and sources said the yatris walked for 24 km in the morning itself. After that, Rahul flew to Ranthambore from Bundi in a chopper.
The Gandhis are staying at Sujan Sher Bagh, a luxurious resort near Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, owned by Anjali and Jaisal Singh, family friends of the Gandhis. Priyanka has, in fact, co-authored a book — ‘Ranthambhore: The Tiger’s Realm’ — with the couple.
Sonia is said to be on a four-day visit to Rajasthan.
From Jaipur, Sonia took a chopper and reached Sawai Madhopur. A few hours later, Rahul and Priyanka joined her at the resort. Sources said Sonia — and possibly Priyanka, too — will participate in the yatra on December 10, a day reserved for women participants.
While the family is keen to keep Sonia’s birthday celebrations a family affair, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot could travel to Ranthambore tomorrow, sources said.
On Thursday, the yatra started from Surymukhi Hanuman Temple and halted at Bhadana village in Kota. The yatris will spend the night at Gurli village in Bundi.