New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Thursday, returned to Delhi after a nearly two-month long ‘sabbatical’.
Rahul arrived here at 11:15 am on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok. He then proceeded to his residence at 12, Tughlaq Lane in central Delhi.
Wearing a dark shirt and seated in the back seat of his vehicle, he arrived escorted by his security personnel and drove straight into the house without interacting with the waiting mediapersons.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were at Rahul’s residence to receive him.
While the flight came from Bangkok, but reports claimed that he had only transited through the Thai capital and was either in Vietnam or Yangon in Myanmar.
Earlier reports had suggested that Rahul was in Europe, Bhutan, Uttarakhand among other places.
As the news of his return spread, tens of Congress workers converged outside his residence and celebrated the event by bursting crackers.
Priyanka left after a while after which Rahul was reportedly closeted with his mother discussing issues. Later at around 1:30 pm, both of them left for Sonia’s residence 10 Janpath.
Missing from action for over a month, the 44-year-old Congress vice president was on a ‘leave of absence’ since the Budget Session of Parliament that began on February 23.
The party contended Gandhi’s absence premised on his need to chart out party’s future course in “isolation”, adding that Gandhi had requested for “some time to reflect on recent events and the future course for the party”
However, there has been speculation that he was unhappy for not getting a free hand to run the party, a contention which the party has officially denied.
Meanwhile, the BJP jumped on the chance to further question and ridicule Rahul by reminding him that there is no item numbers in politics.
Taking a jibe at Rahul’s reappearance, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “This is for the first time in Indian politics that an important member of a political party was absconding for such a long period of time and his return has become news.”
Kisan-Khet Mazdoor Rally
Rahul’s return coincides with Congress’ planned mega farmers’ rally in the national capital on April 19. The rally is being seen as a sort of a comeback announcement of Rahul and a show of strength by the party, which has been strongly opposing changes in the original Act.
Congress is pulling out all the stops to make the rally a success, with the party launching an aggressive media campaign, besides booking a special train.
Congress is hoping to rally people from various parts of the country with the ‘Chalo Dilli Chale’ slogan which will be seen on hoardings and heard on FM radio channels, where it has booked spots.
The 17-coach ‘Kisan Express’ train carrying farmers will leave from Jaipur and arrive at Delhi after six stops on the rally day. Women too will join the rally.
As per reports, Rahul will be the only leader from the party to share space with Congress President Sonia Gandhi in hoardings for the Kisan-Khet Mazdoor rally, which will carry pictures from Rahul’s 2011 Bhatta Parsaul agitation as well Sonia’s recent visits farmers affected by unseasonal rains and hailstorm in various states.
The rally is important as it is being held on the eve of the second phase of the Budget session of Parliament at a time when almost the entire opposition led by Congress has joined ranks against the ordinance, which is being dubbed by them as “anti-farmer and pro-corporate”.
The Congress is also in the midst of a churning over the leadership issue. While Rahul loyalists are pressing for him to take over the reins of the party, Congress’ old guard appears not enthused with the idea.
Many senior leaders have come out openly in favour of Sonia Gandhi continuing as the party chief at a time when the party is struggling to resurrect itself.
The Congress was reduced to 44 seats in the last Lok Sabha elections and has since finished third or fourth in successive assembly polls. In Delhi assembly elections earlier this year, the party failed to open its account.