Earlier in June this year this writer asked what Mrs. Sonia Gandhi was hiding. The question arose from the secrecy surrounding her trips abroad. Several steps were taken by the ruling party to create the impression that Mrs. Gandhi was in the country while in fact she was not. Statements on current events were released on her behalf by the party. The media was misled to think that Ms Jayalalithaa who was visiting Delhi was, as part of policy, met by Mrs. Sheila Dikshit rather than Mrs. Gandhi herself.
On June 14th this writer asked:
“This is not the first time that Mrs. Gandhi has silently gone abroad in a manner best described as being furtive. Why the secrecy? What is the purpose of Mrs. Gandhi’s undisclosed visits abroad?”
One asked whether she traveled by a private jet, if so who owned it; what was the purpose of her visit; and what the itinerary of her trip abroad was. None of the questions were ever answered. Well, Mrs. Gandhi is back to her mysterious ways.
Immediately after her visit to Bangladesh Mrs. Gandhi did not return to India but went on along her foreign trip. In Bangladesh there was no evidence of her being unwell. On Thursday morning a website, politicsparty.com, broke the story that Mrs. Gandhi was abroad. Later in the afternoon the Congress party issued a statement asserting that she was abroad and would be away for three weeks due to health reasons.
At first the Congress party spokesman said that Mrs. Gandhi had been successfully operated upon. A little later he corrected himself to state that the operation had not yet taken place but would be performed in a day or two. Mrs. Gandhi left Bangladesh on July 25th. The news of her ailment was released on August 4th. When was she admitted to hospital? Was the security protocol observed regarding the movements of the Chairperson of the ruling UPA government and Chairperson of the government's National Advisory Council. Were intelligence and security agencies kept in the loop regarding all her movements as required by the security protocol?
It is truly strange that the media and the public should be totally unaware about her movements. On the morning of August 4th one leading national daily actually reported that Mrs. Gandhi had suffered from slight viral fever which prevented her attending Parliament. The newspaper reported that she had recovered and would attend Parliament on the 4th. How could the national media be also so wrong unless there was deliberate attempt for secrecy?
Curiously enough, the Congress party statement went on to announce that during her absence the affairs of the party would be looked after by Mr. Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Ahmed Patel, Mr. Janardhan Dwivedi and Mr. AK Anthony. All four are staunch loyalists. Mr. Anthony alone among them is not a party functionary but a senior cabinet minister.
Why was this unprecedented announcement made?
No such arrangement was required on any earlier occasion. Why was Mr. Anthony chosen in the favoured four and not the Prime Minister or Mr. Pranab Mukherjee?
Perhaps Mrs. Gandhi is really unwell. In that case one prays for her speedy recovery. But given the Congress record one cannot be blamed for being skeptical. The announcement of a four member caretaker team to look after the party in her absence is certainly intriguing. In the surcharged atmosphere there are strident demands for the resignation of several leaders including the Prime Minister and the Delhi Chief Minister. Could there be more than meets the eye in the announcement of a caretaker team during Mrs. Gandhi’s secret trip belatedly acknowledged by the Congress party? One must wait and watch.