New Delhi: The Congress has rescheduled its protest rally against the economic slowdown for the second time to ensure the presence of Rahul Gandhi, who has spent most of his time abroad since quitting the party presidency in May after the Lok Sabha drubbing.
First, a series of Congress programmes were moved from 15-25 October to 15-25 November. Then, its Bharat Bachao Rally was moved up from 1 December to 30 November, only to be pushed back to 14 December.
Sources said most Congress leaders are unsure if Rahul is even in the country — some say he came back to Delhi last week after a three-week hiatus, but then took off again.
According to a leader close to the Gandhi scion, this is the sixth foreign trip he has taken since his resignation from the party presidency six months ago.
“Rahul Gandhi is the obvious choice to lead the rally,” said a Congress functionary. “Sonia Gandhi is not well and Priyanka is focused on UP. In such a scenario, where the party admits it can’t survive without the Gandhis, how can a rally be held without him?”
ThePrint approached Congress’ general secretary in-charge (organisation) K.C. Venugopal for a comment on the rescheduling of the Bharat Bachao Rally, but did not receive a response until the time of publishing this report.
No decision without consulting Rahul Gandhi
Even though Sonia took over as interim Congress chief in August, Rahul remains the pivot around which the party revolves.
From the appointment of the new Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief to deciding whether or not Congress should ally with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, Rahul and his team have been selectively active in shaping the party’s politics, another senior Congress leader told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.
“No decision is taken without consulting him. Sonia Gandhi forwards all the files to get his opinion first,” the Congress functionary quoted above said.
A second functionary added: “She (Sonia Gandhi) has always put him first. He may have resigned but he’s running the show on many fronts.”
Officially, though, the party has maintained that the rescheduling of the protest rally is because of political developments. First, it was the Haryana and Maharashtra elections, said another Congress leader, which had caused the rescheduling. After that, the party was still coming to terms with its unexpected performance.
“Then the Ayodhya verdict came along,” this leader said. “And now Parliament is in session, so the Bharat Bachao Rally has been pushed to 14 December.”
In Maharashtra and Haryana, Sonia decided to back veteran Congress leaders, a decision that has paid dividends for the party. The Congress defied its own expectations in the two states and performed considerably better than predicted. Rahul, who did not participate in the decision-making, has not even commented on the party’s performance, though the results were declared nearly a month ago.
When the Shiv Sena sent feelers to the Congress after its relationship with the BJP turned sour, Rahul’s absence, Maharashtra Congress leaders felt, was the reason for the party’s initial reluctance to act.
“He (Rahul Gandhi) is not in India. I think Sonia is waiting for him to return and then take a call on whether the party should ally with the Sena,” a Maharashtra Congress leader said.
The leader said Rahul had conveyed his disapproval of a tie-up with the Shiv Sena to Sonia over the telephone. “He thinks it betrays the party’s secular nature,” the leader said.
Also read: How the SPG Act destroyed the Congress party