Even as political circles were agog with speculation about Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s whereabouts, the unease in the party came to the surface with senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh questioning the timing of his “leave” and Kamal Nath going public about “two decision-making points in one party”.
The 44-year-old politician has taken some time off to “reflect” in the wake of a string of electoral defeats and deliberate on the future course of the party, said Congress leaders.
Digvijaya Singh dismissed conjecture that Rahul “could run away” from politics and said he would return to lead the party.
“He will continue not only as an MP but he also has a larger role in the Congress at the national level,” he told Karan Thapar on Headlines Today. “There is no question of Rahul running away. I absolutely rule it out. He is made of sterner stuff. I am absolutely sure that he will not run away.”
Singh, however, said Rahul was not being allowed to function independently and “some powerful people in Delhi” were trying to stall his reform measures. “They feel they may lose the clout they enjoy today.”
While some supporters say Rahul wants to restructure the party and get rid of the old guard, analysts say his absence is a form of protest to put the veterans on notice and bring in major organisational changes.
The 130-year-old party drew a blank in last month’s Delhi election, the first time that it does not have a member in the assembly. Digvijaya Singh dismissed reports of differences between Rahul and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, amid speculation that he was likely to take over the party’s reins from his mother in April.
“There is no question of differences. There is a strong bonding between them as family members,” he said on the TV programme.
“Both of them are from different generations. Obviously every generation has a mindset,” he added when pressed further.
Kamal Nath said the time had come to anoint Rahul the Congress chief as “there cannot be two decision-making points” in one party.
“Make him the president. At present, the situation that existed showed that neither Rahul nor Sonia is there. Mrs Sonia Gandhi thinks Rahul is doing something and Rahul thinks that Mrs Sonia Gandhi is doing something,” Nath said in interviews to TV channels. “We must have a situation where Rahul is in command.”
Earlier in the day, photographs of Rahul purportedly at a hill station were tweeted from the handle @jagdishkumarsh4, and the Tweeter, who calls himself a Congress worker, said the politician was in Uttarakhand.
But the party dismissed the reports and said the pictures were taken in 2008.
“Whatever Sharma has claimed is not correct. He is neither in the Congress nor has anything to do with it or the Gandhi family,” Congress spokesperson PC Chacko said.
HT approached several leaders to locate Rahul, but none of them said they knew and many even refused to speak on the issue.
“We can’t state his location, time or exact date of return. We expect everyone to respect his privacy and put an end to all speculation,” party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
Rahul’s absence comes at a time when the Opposition is trying to stonewall the Narendra Modi government’s efforts to ease land acquisition laws.
“I don’t know where Rahul has gone. He wanted to go even before the Delhi election. There will always be something,” Congress leader Ambika Soni said.