Rahul Gandhi was visiting the US for a five-day conference beginning September 24, the Congress said on Wednesday, rubbishing the BJP’s claims that the opposition leader had been sent on a “forced vacation” by his party’s allies in Bihar.
The party vice-president would be in Aspen, Colorado for “Weekend with Charlie Rose”, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, on a day of ugly exchanges between his party and the ruling side.
“We reject all rumours stating otherwise,” he said, a day after the Congress first claimed that Gandhi was on a personal visit to the US but later said he was to attend a global conference.
Weekend with Charlie Rose was a private conference in which leaders from fields as varied as business, politics, media, sports, science, medicine and the arts gather for “a weekend of thought provoking conversations and activities”, Surjewala said. The gatherings are organised and piloted by journalist Charlie Rose, who recently interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Taking a dig at Gandhi, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had earlier said leaders of the grand alliance had sent Gandhi “on a forced vacation because his stay anywhere near Bihar was going to harm” their electoral chances.
The Congress has joined hands with the ruling Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar for the crucial five-phase state election that get underway October 12.
Patra said Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad had “shown Rahul Gandhi his place” by staying away from his Bihar rally. Gandhi had addressed a public meeting in West Champaran on September 19. Prasad had sent son Tejaswi to represent the RJD.
“The Congress is now looking for a face-saver which is reflected from the dichotomy in its statements,” Patra said.
Hitting back, Surjewala said the BJP was running a “motivated and malicious campaign” and spreading “petty canards” as it was foreseeing its imminent loss in Bihar polls.
“BJP would also do well to realise that Rahul Gandhi will be very much there to spearhead the Congress campaign in Bihar and provide them the much deserved body blow in elections,” he said.
The Congress, however, didn’t specify the days Gandhi would be away from the country. Early this year, Gandhi took a 57-day sabbatical that saw rivals question his commitment to politics.