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Rahul heads for Norway, to miss opposition rallies in Bihar and Gujarat

The absence of the Gandhis and BSP chief Mayawati has already taken much sheen off the opposition rally in Patna scheduled for August 27.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2017 07:25 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress vice-president,Rahul Gandhi,Opposition rallies
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will miss two opposition rallies but is scheduled to attend a September 4 Congress workers’ meet in Ahmedabad to launch the party’s Gujarat election campaign.(PTI)

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will be travelling to Oslo on the invitation of the Norwegian foreign ministry, as a result of which he will not be able to attend the two opposition rallies in Bihar and Gujarat.

While Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad is organising a rally of opposition parties -- BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao’ -- at Gandhi Maidan in Patna on August 27, the Congress has planned a similar public meeting at Padri in Valsad district of Gujarat on September 1.

However, Rahul will launch his Gujarat election campaign with a workers’ meet at Ahmedabad on September 4.

“On the invitation of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be travelling to Oslo for a few days,” the Congress V-P wrote on Twitter. “Looking forward to meeting and exchanging ideas with political and business leaders and research institutions,” he said in another tweet.

The absence of leaders such as Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul apart from Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati has taken the sting out of the opposition’s purported show of strength against the BJP.

However, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, former chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand Akhilesh Yadav and Hemant Soren apart from rebel Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav will share the stage with RJD chief Lalu Prasad. Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad will represent the Congress at the rally.

Read more: Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati to skip RJD rally on August 27

The Bihar Congress was vertically divided on the issue of participation of Sonia and Rahul in Prasad’s rally.

One section wanted the Gandhis to skip the rally and maintain a “healthy” distance from the RJD, arguing that the change in Bihar politics has given an opportunity to the Congress to reclaim its lost political space in the state where the grand old party was once a dominant force.

“Any move to distance the party away from Lalu will go down well with the upper castes, especially Brahmins,” said senior leader Kishore Kumar Jha.

However, another group favoured the participation of the Congress leadership in the rally suggesting that skipping the event would be a setback to Prasad’s efforts to unite all the opposition parties against the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

This section had also argued that Prasad’s secular credentials were impeccable and that he had throughout stood firmly behind Sonia and as such no step should be taken to antagonise him.

In another development, the Gujarat Congress has already decided not to invite the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for the September 1 rally after its two legislators did not vote for senior leader Ahmed Patel in the August 8 Rajya Sabha elections.

First Published: Aug 25, 2017 13:26 IST