New Delhi: In a surprise statement, Congress on Thursday announced that Sonia Gandhi would have to go for a major surgery and would be away for about three weeks. She has appointed a four-member committee consisting of son and party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, along with Janardhan Dwivedi, Ahmed Patel and AK Antony.
Sonia will be away for three weeks but it could be longer before she is back to work. So in her absence, who will run the party?
Antony is the only Cabinet minister in the list. The government's all season firefighter Pranab Mukharjee is not in the list. Antony makes the cut for his squeaky clean image and for being in the same wavelength with Congress. Ahmed Patel and Janaradan Dwiwedi are there to ensure continuity in decision making.
"Sonia Gandhi has been recently diagnosed with a medical condition that requires surgery. On advice from her doctors, she has travelled abroad and is likely to be away for two to three weeks," said Dwivedi.
Dwivedi had earlier said that Gandhi had undergone a successful surgery but clarified later that the operation would be carried out in a day or two.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shulka said that the decision to appoint Rahul in the panel was taken by Sonia herself.
We express concern and hope for her speedy recovery. Rahul is the party General Secretary and anyway has been taking key decisions. We would like him to take more responsibilities. It is between the mother and son," said Shukla.
Sonia, accompanied by Rahul, had left earlier in the week to an undisclosed destination in the US. Congress party was silent over when she left and where she was undergoing treatment.
Significance is attached to the fact that Rahul will form part of the of the committee that has only one senior minister of the government and two leaders from the organisation.
Asked to explain the absence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee from the group, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said "they (the Prime Minister and Finance Minister) are senior members who have been active in the organisation for long."
To a question about her health condition and the kind of surgery, she has to undergo, Tiwari declined to go into details.
"Even public personalities are entitled to certain amount of privacy in so far as their medical condition is concerned. Our friends in media should bear that sensitivity in mind," he said.
Some of the decisions pending are - what to do about Sheila Dikshit in the light of CAG strictures against her? Party responsibilities post the cabinet reshuffle have to be assigned and crucial bills like land acquisition, judicial bill also have to be taken up in this session.
In December, 2007, Gandhi was admitted for a week in the Ganga Ram Hospital where she was said to have been under treatment of an eminent gynaecologist.
The sources said she had earlier also visited the US for medical examination and the surgery had been planned in advance.
The Congress President had been not keeping well in the past and because of her illness, she could not attend meetings of the Congress Core Group as also that of the Parliamentary Strategy Committee.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was among the first ones to wish good luck to Sonia. "Have come to know through media about Mrs Sonia Gandhi's surgery. I pray for her speedy recovery and good health," he tweeted.
BJP MP and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, also wished Sonia Gandhi speedy recovery.