Updated: February 24, 2015 11:33:28 am
His party still trying to pick up its pieces after its worst electoral drubbing, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today went on a break for a “few weeks” — the “leave of absence” from “active politics” was granted by his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
While the party said he wanted time to “reflect on recent events and the future course of the party”, sources said he has been upset for a while over not getting as “free a hand” as he wants to unveil radical reforms and drastic “structural” organisational changes. Changes that position him against many of the old guard seen as close to his mother.
For the record, the Congress said reports that he was unhappy with a section of the senior leadership were “speculative.” He has been “given a few weeks. He needs some time,” Sonia told reporters at Parliament. Asked for a reason, she said, “Well, the reason is what you have been told.”
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Sources, however, said it wasn’t so black and white. The 44-year-old, they said, has been troubled by attempts to blame him for the party’s rout in the Lok Sabha, in the state elections that followed and, most recently, its zero tally in Delhi. They said that while he was being blamed for all these reverses, he was “not being allowed” to carry out the changes that he wanted. Sources claimed the resistance from an influential section of the AICC, considered close to 10, Janpath, was “frustrating.”
He could not push beyond a point because that would have brought him into direct confrontation with his mother, said sources. According to these sources, Rahul was willing to take over as Congress president. “He is ready for that. That way, he will have powers and if things go wrong, he is prepared to take the blame,” said a source.
Sources said that many of Rahul’s organisational experiments were stalled. Citing specific instances, a source said Rahul wanted to replace the state party chiefs of Gujarat and Maharashtra but could not move forward. He also wanted to replace some of the general secretaries after the Lok Sabha defeat and was in favour of replacing Prithviraj Chavan in the run-up to the Assembly elections in Maharashtra. But none of these changes could take place.
Idea Exchange Video: Natwar Singh on Rahul Gandhi
Rahul’s decision to go on a sabbatical on the opening day of the Budget Session of Parliament stunned the party. Almost all its top MPs refused to comment. Most of the MPs came to know about the development from reporters. It was Ajay Maken, AICC general secretary in charge of the communication department, who officially informed the media in the morning about Rahul going on leave. By evening, the AICC came out with a structured response.
“The Congress vice-president has requested the party and Congress president that he needs and wants some time to reflect on both recent events and the future course of the party. He believes that this introspection is important, is vital for the party in general and for the upcoming AICC session. And he believes the AICC session is of crucial importance and he would like to consider various significant inputs for it and chart a new course,” said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, reading from a prepared text.
“On his request, Rahul Gandhi has been granted leave of absence for a few weeks after which he will return to resume his active participation in all matters of the party,” he added.
Singhvi said the party would continue to take up “all the basic and fundamental ideas pioneered and germinated by him”, like the land acquisition ordinance. While Rahul will not attend the protest at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday, the party will go ahead.
To repeated questions about Rahul’s whereabouts, Singhvi replied: “I am not giving anything more or less. You can ask me in 20 different ways, in Hindi or English. I will give one answer.”
Asked about the timing of the “leave”, he said: “Anytime of the year is important. Anytime of the year there will be Delhi elections, there will be a Parliament session, there will be Bihar elections, an AICC session. So anytime anybody chooses will have some disruption qua that activity… This is a needed introspection, a reform oriented introspection. And it is introspection qua the party.”
“You do not do this kind of inquisitorial, aggressive, scandalous, provocative and insinuatory statements when, for example, for virtually a whole session in November, the Prime Minister did not attend. You don’t ask similar questions when leaders of other parties don’t attend at all and that includes Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav. You don’t bother when Arvind Kejriwal goes for vipasana sessions. So please don’t pick on somebody,” he said.
“It is between him and the party. Why should anybody else have a problem?” he said.
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