Ahead of the crucial budget session, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi took “leave of absence” to reflect on a series of electoral defeats and deliberate on the future course of the 130-year-old party, top sources said here.
“Rahul Gandhi has been granted leave of absence for ‘aap chintan, aap manthan’ (introspection),” a party leader said.
“He will not be in Delhi until the end of this week to attend the presentation of the budget,” he said.
However, the entire duration of absence is not known, another source added.
The budget session began Monday with the address of President Pranab Mukherjee to a joint session of both houses of parliament.
The absence of Rahul Gandhi, son of party president Sonia Gandhi, from a crucial budget session assumes greater significance at a time when parliament is likely to witness stiff opposition in view of six ordinances, including the controversial Land Acquisition Ordinance, that await the parliament’s nod to be replaced by relevant laws.
Fifth in a row since the 2014 general election, the recent embarrassing drubbing in Delhi has posed a formidable challenge for the party to reverse its sliding fortunes ahead of the Bihar assembly polls later this year.
The party vote share has been on a down-slide since 2013 that witnessed a 24 percent drop. It further dipped to 15 percent in the 2014 general election and ended with nearly 9.7 percent in the Delhi assembly polls this month.
Hundreds of thousands of traditional Congress supporters from all social segments shifted their loyalty en masse to the 27-month-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the national capital.
The AAP registered a clean sweep bagging 67 seats in the 70-member assembly, relegating the Bharatiya Janata Party to mere three seats, while the Congress failed to even open its account in the assembly it ruled for 15 years until 2013.
A party which once used to lord over India now governs only Assam, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Karnataka and Arunachal Pradesh.