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Rahul’s absence sets tongues wagging

Rahul’s absence sets tongues wagging
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Congress vice- president Rahul Gandhi was conspicuous by his absence on Monday  at the opening day of the Budget session. Gandhi’s break ostensibly to reflect on a series of electoral defeats for his party and chart its future course drew a sharp response for the BJP who slammed him for “holidaying” during the “important” budget session of Parliament. In a brief interaction with the media here, party president Sonia Gandhi said: “He (Rahul) has been given a few weeks. He needs some time.”

Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi earlier said the vice president requested “some time to reflect on recent events and the future course for the party. This introspection is important for the party in view of the forthcoming All India Congress Committee session”.

“The AICC session is of crucial importance and Rahul Gandhi will give inputs for it. So he has been given leave of absence after which he will come back to active participation,” Singhvi told reporters here. However, the entire duration of absence is not known, a party source said. It was also not known where Rahul Gandhi was, though a television channel claimed that he had gone to Bangkok last week.

The explanation for the leave cut no ice with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Hitting out at Rahul Gandhi, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: “This only shows the seriousness of the Congress party. He is holidaying during the budget session.”

The absence of Rahul Gandhi from the session, which started Monday with President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to a joint sitting, assumes greater significance at a time when Parliament is likely to witness a standoff on six ordinances including the controversial one amending the land acquisition bill, that have to be replaced by laws.

However, Congress general secretary Ajay Maken urged all to refrain from “reading too much” into the absence that had no bearing on ensuring an effective agitation over the land ordinance.

“Rahul Gandhi is not an office bearer of the parliamentary party. So the work of the Congress within the house would carry on uninterrupted,” Maken said.

Expressing similar sentiments, party leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said the Congress would operate under the guidance of Sonia Gandhi.

Also defending the Congress vice chief who is mostly in news for frequent no-shows when the house is in session, Congress MP Rajiv Shukla said: “He attended the last session very regularly. And he is always present in the house regularly. Now he has gone for some important work somewhere, that does not mean this issue should be blow out of proportion.”

However, Nationalist Congress Party MP Praful Patel said since parliament was “an important forum in a democracy where we can discuss and debate, it becomes imperative on all MPs to utilise this platform and miss no opportunity to voice the needs of the people they represent in the house”.

But Rahul Gandhi does not face an easy task. The recent Delhi assembly polls — where the party was unable to win a single seat - was the fifth defeat in a row since the 2014 general election.
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