On a sultry afternoon in March 2006, Sonia Gandhi walked out of her office on 10, Janpath – accompanied by a grim-looking Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi – after she had announced her resignation as MP from Rae Bareli. In what was seen as a masterstroke back then, with the opposition raging about “office of profit” as she was an MP as well as the chairperson of the National Advisory Council, she said she was “doing the right thing” by stepping down.
But, she also said she will not give up and go back to her people; which she did. Wearing a crisp saffron-coloured sari and a tika on her forehead, Sonia had brandished a sword when she visited her constituency seeking a re-election and accused the opposition BJP of targeting her. She won and used it to upstage her opponents.
Rahul Gandhi won’t mind repeating his mother’s strategy 17 years on. As parliament’s first week ended in a washout, he faces a suspension notice. The BJP has demanded that he should be suspended as an MP if he refuses to apologise for his comments in the UK. A BJP delegation has appealed to speaker Om Birla to set up a committee on his suspension.
All eyes are on Birla to see when and if he allots time to Rahul to defend himself. The BJP, meanwhile, is straining its ears to hear sorry, which is unlikely, and the saffron party will then push for the senior Congress leader’s suspension.
Not that the Congress minds. In fact, many party leaders said this might just be an empty threat from the BJP to “grab headlines and this could come back to them”.
“If they do this, (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi will prove that democracy is dead in India,” Congress MP Manickam Tagore told News18.
Strategically speaking, a suspension works for Rahul and the Congress. It will help him play the “wronged” card on which he can return to Wayanad and seek a re-election that will be an almost-certain win. Also, Rahul can then push the narrative that he refused to bow before the BJP and the people stood by him as they voted him back to power.
Some others also feel this can help him get support back in his old family constituency of Amethi and earn some sympathy. In 2006, when Sonia had driven into Rae Bareli after her resignation, she had cried: ‘Jung jaari rahegi aur caravan badta rahega’.
Something which the son might also want to say as he heads into the 2024 Lok Sabha poll battle.
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