New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will miss the first part of the Budget session as he wants to stay away from active politics for some time to reflect upon the party's humiliating defeats during recent elections and dwell on the future course of the party.
Sources in the Congress said he has asked his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi for “some time to reflect on recent events and future course of the party.” There was no official word on what Rahul plans to do or where he was at the moment as speculation raged whether it could be a precursor to his keeping away from politics.
A member of the Lok Sabha from Amethi, he gave a miss to Parliament which commenced its budget session today with the President's address to a joint sitting of both the Houses. He will not be able to attend Wednesday's event and he is likely to remain absent from Parliament in its crucial first week when the general budget and railway budget are to be presented.
While the Congress did not spell out the duration of his ‘leave', sources said he could be away for some weeks. The Budget session goes into recess on March 23.
His sudden leave has set off speculations about his future role in the party and also that he was unhappy with lobbies of some senior leaders close to the party President, whom he wanted to go in the upcoming AICC reshuffle soon.
Some of the ideas of the Congress Vice President on party reforms have not found favour with a dominant section of the old guard and the tension between the two sets of viewpoints have been reflected time and again, party sources said.
Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, however, rejected the specualtions saying he "condemns and denies such unjustifiable" questions".
"He (Rahul) believes that the AICC session (expected in the first week of April) is vital and he would like to give specific inputs on this. He wants to do introspection with what happened with regard to Congress in recent times and earlier," Singhvi said.
The Congress spokesperson said that after applying his mind on these issues, Rahul will "return to resume his active participation in political affairs of Congress."
Meanwhile, the BJP took a jibe at Congress over Rahul's absence from the parliament. BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said people of the country have already sent the Congress on a long leave.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said it shows his seriousness at a time the budget session of Parliament was beginning and raises questions over his political inclination.
Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut took a dig at Rahul, saying at a time when the issue of land acquisition has come to the fore in Parliament, he has gone to retrieve the "lost land" of the Congress party.
Congress ally NCP also took a jibe with its leader Praful Patel saying that all, especially leaders, should take Parliament very seriously to voice the needs of the people.
Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit said he did not think Rahul going on leave is related to Delhi elections. "I suppose it's a time to reflect and think. I think Mr Gandhi must be wanting time for that. I feel glad he has applied and officially told people that he would not be available for a while."
Dikshit said Rahul must be given that space as he genuinely wants to think and reflect on issues.
Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and another leader Veerappa Moily said party would continue to take guidance from Sonia and Rahul.
Another party MP Ashwini Kumar said whatever the BJP's interpretation, it's a plain and simple case of a member seeking leave as per procedures of the House to be absent for a while
Congress had had a disastrous year starting with the rout in the Lok Sabha elections last May which continued in the Assembly elections in various states including Delhi recently.
The debacle in Delhi, where Congress failed to get even one seat in the 70-member House, was all the more humiliating as the party had ruled the state for 15 years till December 2013.
The AICC session is expected in early April and media reports have suggested that Rahul could be made the party chief on that occasion.
(With Agency inputs)