Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has embarked on another trip abroad, heading to Italy where his maternal grandmother lives, with the timing raising eyebrows again.
The trip means Rahul Gandhi will be missing in action when the schedule to Assembly elections is announced in the first week of January. The first casualty of the trip was the Moga rally that Gandhi was scheduled to address in Punjab — his first in a state where the Congress has been riddled with infighting. The rally will be held after Rahul Gandhi returns. Punjab and Uttarakhand are the two states where the Congress is seen having a fighting chance. In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party and the ruling BJP are already campaigning in full-swing.
Congress sources said Rahul Gandhi had spent about 25 days abroad this year and undertook four such trips. Just ahead of the Winter Session, the Congress leader was on a short trip to London but was back just a day before the Parliament session, in which he took up issues like farmers’ protests.
While the BJP has time and again taken digs at Rahul Gandhi over his foreign visits, many within the Congress too have raised concerns in private over the timing of his trips.
Gandhi was in Singapore for a seminar during the peak of the anti-CAA protests. He was in Thailand just before elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, forcing his campaigns to be cut short.
Again in December 2020, amid farmers’ protests over the three farm laws, Gandhi had left for Italy. The timing of the trip was criticised by farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, too, who said the Congress leader “had let down the farmers’ cause”.
As per the data made public by Home Minister Amit Shah in Parliament, Rahul Gandhi has travelled abroad 247 times between 2015 and 2019, roughly five times a month. The Home Minister also alleged that these visits were made without following protocol and keeping the SPG in the know.
Rahul Gandhi’s latest trip also comes amid global surge in Covid-19 cases, led by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. While the government has cautioned against abroad travel, many in the BJP have called Gandhi’s trip “irresponsible”.
Responding to the criticism, Congress media department head Randeep Surjewala said, “Rahul Gandhi is on a brief personal visit. The BJP and its media friends should not spread rumours unnecessarily.”