On Day 1 of Parliament’s Monsoon Session, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi made a strong attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter as India recorded over 92,000 coronavirus cases in 24 hours. In his tweet, Gandhi said, “The Modi government has said we must be self-reliant which means save your own lives as the PM is busy with peacocks.” The dig was a reference to a recent video of the prime minister feeding peacocks at his residence.
While Rahul Gandhi’s attack was all over Twitter, he was nowhere to be seen. The former Congress president has taken leave from Lok Sabha in a letter written to the Speaker to travel abroad for a routine check-up of his mother Sonia Gandhi. Sonia Gandhi has had to postpone her annual check-up at a US hospital for an undisclosed illness. She is usually accompanied by one of her children and this time, Rahul Gandhi has chosen to accompany her.
However, some in the party are unhappy with the timing of his visit. They feel with the Question Hour being suspended and elections in Bihar and Bengal coming up, it was important for him to be present physically. Rahul Gandhi has been one of the most aggressive voices to attack the government on coronavirus, economy and China but many of his colleagues feel that now was the time for him to be present in Parliament to take on the government.
More importantly, this is also the time when Rahul Gandhi and Congress could try and reach out to other opposition parties. Rahul Gandhi has often been accused of not being around when needed the most; whether it was during the anti-CAA protests or Delhi riots. In fact, even though he has been aggressive on the China issue, he has skipped 11 meeting of the parliamentary committee on defence. He attended it for the first time this week to raise the issue of the food habits of jawans.
Supporters of Rahul Gandhi say he does not have to be around to take up issues as his support is always backstage. Also, in this case, a personal reason for absence should not be made a political issue.
However, the fact remains that Rahul Gandhi’s absence puts his party on the back foot while it leaves the BJP smiling and helps reinforce their labelling him as a tourist politician.