Rahul Gandhi’s surprise sabbatical has exposed faultlines in the electorally-battered Congress, which is bracing for a generational change.
The party has tried to downplay Gandhi’s sudden move saying he is the leader and will come back soon to play a pro-active role in party affairs.
While party sources deny that the break by Gandhi indicates any reluctance on his part to lead the party or renounce politics, the buzz goes that the Congress vice president was not quite okay with a number of his ideas not being implemented in the parent party after he took over as its VP in January 2013 after Chintan Shivir in Jaipur.
“It’s not that he is quitting politics or will not take any other responsibility. It will also be wrong to say he is sulking and so he did. That is not his way of doing politics. There are issues and he wants to reflect. After all, if he has to lead, he will like do it with his ideas.
“He will utilize the sabbatical time to reflect, regroup and chart out the course” for the party, which braces for the All India Congress Committee session in April, where Congress is likely to come up with a revival roadmap,” the sources said.
While Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said that such retreats are common for leaders worldwide, the timing of the sabbatical has left many wondering as it happens when the crucial Budget session is on and the party is planning to launch a major agitation on the land ordinance.
Gandhi, whose left of the Centre tilt, is well-known, had played a key role in passage of the land acquisition surmounting the doubts expressed within sections of his own party.
The Congress VP’s “tear act” in 2013 had caught the rank and file of the party by surprise.
At a press conference at Press Club of India in New Delhi in September 2013, Gandhi had walked in and denounced the controversial ordinance pushed by the United Progressive Alliance government to negate the Supreme Court verdict on convicted lawmakers as “complete nonsense” and had said what “our government has done is wrong”.
There were different opinions within the party itself on the issue.
A number of ideas of Rahul Gandhi are found to be too radical within some sections of the party, which are not very amused with them and Gandhi had to negotiate with the pulls and pressures in getting them implemented.
A number of measures like opening up the Youth Congress to elections was not welcomed by sections in the party.
Gandhi wanted to implement several new ideas in the party, which have failed to see the light of the day. The Congress VP was keen that the practice of high command making key appointments in the party is done away with.
He also favoured election to the top posts including in Congress Working Committee, where nomination has been the way so far.
Gandhi’s idea to hold primaries in election going seats was given a go-by after his experiment failed in Lok Sabha with none of the Congress candidates winning in 16 Parliamentary seats, where he had brought in US-style primary mode to elect candidates.
Party sources close to Gandhi said there could be more clarity on issues, when he puts forth his “plan of action” at the AICC meet.
Gandhi has always given indications that he feels that Congress like other parties is not doing enough to empower the workers at the grass root.
The Gandhi scion vented his anguish on party forums as well as outside giving the impression of someone not satisfied with the system surrounding him.