Congress president Sonia Gandhi has notified a four-member committee, including AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi, to oversee the functioning of the party while she recuperates from a surgery abroad.
The party is tightlipped about the nature of the surgical procedure Sonia, 64, is likely to undergo on Thursday or Friday. Rahul and his sister Priyanka are accompanying her.
A senior Congress functionary told Hindustan Times that the UPA chairperson has been under treatment for some time. She has travelled abroad for the surgery on the advice of doctors and to prevent any discomfort to other patients if she were to undergo the procedure in a facility in India.
A brief four-line statement released by AICC media department head and general secretary Janardan Dwivedi read: “Smt. Sonia Gandhi has been recently diagnosed with a medical condition that requires surgery. On advice of her doctors, she has travelled abroad and is likely to be away for two to three weeks”.
All four of them including Rahul are regular members of the party's highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC).
The Congress president is understood to have informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee about her decision to set up the committee.
They are not part of the interim arrangement on account of their preoccupation with heavy government and parliamentary work in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament.
The constitution of the Congress party is silent on the options to be exercised in the event of the president becoming dysfunctional due to a medical exigency. The party constitution merely states: “In the event of any emergency by reason of any cause such as the death or resignation of the president elected, the senior most general secretary will discharge the routine functions of the president until the working committee (CWC) appoints a provisional president pending the election of a regular president by the AICC.”
In the instant case, Sonia continues to be president and she herself has constituted the group. The panel members have been asked to be in regular touch with the PM and Mukherjee and consult them on all issues.
Not only the nature of the surgery, even Sonia's itinerary, including the duration and place of stay (surgery) is being kept under wraps on the advice of the special protection group (SPG) mandated for her security.
Congress spokesman Manish Tewari faced a volley of questions on Sonia's medical condition and the country of her destination. His refrain was: “Public personalities are entitled to a certain degree of privacy when it concerns their medical condition.”
Rahul's presence on the panel was downplayed by sources who insisted that it should be viewed as what it is — a stopgap arrangement. They said the four-member committee will oversee the party's day to day functioning until Sonia's return.