New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who was out of the public eye for nearly two months, returned on Thursday. The BJP, however, said "you just cannot shy away from your duties".
"He (Rahul Gandhi) is back... I have no doubt that he will be not only taking proactive measures but also with dynamism, with commitment, provide leadership," Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
Forty-four-year-old Rahul Gandhi, out of sight since the budget session of parliament began on February 23, returned after 56 days amid intense speculation regarding his whereabouts. There were different versions to his sojourn, with one version saying he was in Myanmar, a second said Thailand and the third talking about Vietnam.
He landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport at 10.45 a.m. on Thai Airways flight TG 323 from Bangkok, a source at the airport authority said.
Some party workers burst firecrackers and celebrated outside Rahul Gandhi's 12, Tughlaq Lane where he arrived around noon. His mother and party president Sonia Gandhi as well as his sister Priyanka Gandhi were already present, an AICC official told IANS.
A TV channel showed photographs of Rahul Gandhi sitting in a vehicle as an SPG commando stood close by.
The BJP took a dig at him.
"There is nothing called as part time politics, it's a complete full time job," BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.
"You just cannot shy away from your duties that you have promised to deliver," he added.
After missing from action since the budget session of parliament began on February 23, the Congress vice president will address a kisan-mazdoor (farmer-labour) rally here on April 19 to protest what the Congress has described as the "anti-farmer" Narendra Modi government.
Gandhi is also scheduled to hold meetings with party leaders as well as farmers' leaders on Friday to discuss the contours and details of the rally at Ramlila Ground here.
On his return, Gandhi was expected to be elevated as the party chief at an AICC session in April, but the session was later rescheduled until after July.
Describing him as natural choice for party president, senior Congress legislator Rita Bahuguna Joshi told IANS that Rahul Gandhi is a "widely accepted leader" in the Congress who "automatically fits into the profile" of the party chief.
"There is a huge demand in the party for him to take over. The transition will be very smooth as he already knows the party, its organisation and the people," Joshi said.
Joshi said that he has returned with "more force and commitment" with an agenda to travel across India to raise issues that are anti-people and prevent the government from going ahead with the land acquisition bill.
Party worker Jadish Sharma told reporters that he would soon be made party chief after April 19.
Sharma also claimed that Rahul Gandhi was in Uttarakhand during his sabbatical and not in Bangkok as was being reported by a section of the media.
Rahul Gandhi's unexplained leave of absence prompted simmering noises within the Congress.
Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit was quoted as saying, "...(in case of) Rahul, of course, there is a question mark, there is skepticism because you have not seen him perform as yet."
Her remarks echoed the sentiments of a few other senior leaders who demanded Sonia Gandhi should continue as party president.
The Congress vice president's absence assumed greater significance as he went on a sabbatical amid intensely fluid political season due to the land acquisition bill.
The party, however, contended that Rahul Gandhi's absence was for his need to chart out the party's future course in "isolation" after a series of electoral drubbings.
Fifth in a row since the 2014 general election, the embarrassing drubbing in Delhi early this year posed a formidable challenge for the party to reverse its sliding fortunes ahead of the Bihar assembly polls later this year.