New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s only rally in Haryana ahead of the assembly election on Monday has been cancelled just hours before it was to take place. The rally, in Mahendergarh, will now be addressed by Rahul Gandhi.
The party has not yet given a reason for the change in plans, and also deleted the tweet in which Sonia Gandhi skipping the rally was initially announced. This was to be her first public meeting after she took over the reins of the grand old party in August.
“Shri @RahulGandhi ji will be addressing a public meeting at Mahendragarh today, at 2 PM. @INCIndia President Smt. Sonia Gandhi ji will not be able to attend the meeting due to unavoidable reasons (sic),” the party’s deleted tweet said.
Gandhi, who turns 73 this December, was to campaign for Congress candidate Rao Daan Singh, who is contesting against BJP minister Ram Bilas Sharma. She is yet to campaign in Maharashtra, the other state going to polls with Haryana on October 21. Votes will be counted on October 24.
The Congress president’s appearances at public functions have been rare the last few years. She had last addressed a rally in Rae Bareli on June 12 to thank the voters of re-electing her in the Lok Sabha election. The last time she had campaigned for an assembly election was in Telangana on November 23 last year. She had skipped the assembly elections in other states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.
For his part, Rahul Gandhi has stepped up campaign in both Maharashtra and Haryana, and has addressed several public meetings in different parts of the two states.
The late cancellation, without ascribing any reason, has already led to speculation over whether this has something to do with the turf war between the Sonia Gandhi loyalists and team Rahul, which has damaged the party's prospects in the assembly election. By the Congress’ own estimates, Haryana and Maharashtra will be a wipe-out.
At the Mahendragarh rally, Congress general secretary and Haryana in charge Ghulam Nabi Azad, former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the party's state president Kumari Selja and many local leaders, and candidates were also expected to be present.