New Delhi: Sonia Gandhi Thursday chaired the first meeting of the Congress after her surgery in the US, providing visible relief to a party battling an aggressive opposition and Team Anna.
The 64-year-old presided over the Central Election Committee (CEC) for about an hour at her 10 Janpath residence, the meeting attended by senior leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukheree and her son Rahul Gandhi. The meeting was called to finalize the party’s candidates for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Congress sources said Gandhi looked healthy and cheerful although doctors, worried about her health, have told her not to exert herself. Gandhi made it a point both to receive and send off the prime minister as has been her practise, the sources said.
Party leaders admitted that her first official engagement had come earlier than expected. “We are very happy that she took part in the meeting. We pray she recovers fully,” said Congress spokesman Raashid Alvi. Party general secretary Digvijay Singh said Gandhi “fully participated” in the deliberations. “She was very happy… It was not apparent that she had undergone a surgery,” he said, adding her participation had enthused party workers.
Another party leader who did not wish to be identified by name or designation admitted that the Congress was relieved that she was back in action.
Gandhi was away from India for almost six weeks. She underwent surgery for an undisclosed ailment in the US. She returned Sep 8. Neither the Congress nor her family has disclosed her medical problem.
The Anna Hazare campaign against corruption that almost paralyzed the government happened during her absence. And with a string of corruption scandals plaguing the government, the opposition had also become aggressive during this period, forcing many in the Congress to rue her absence. “We are all relieved and thrilled. Her absence had caused a lot of concern. We wish and pray for her long life,” a party leader functioning from the Congress headquarters said.
Party sources said that Gandhi had not been meeting party leaders — except Rahul Gandhi — since her return but went through documents sent to her. Former party secretary Ranji Thomas said Congress workers feel that her return would bring greater vigour in their work. Yet another Congress leader added: “The party appeared directionless in her absence.”