Even as the Lok Sabha cameras on Wednesday caught Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi napping during a debate on price rise, many Congress leaders in the Parliament were heard, saying they were unable to read their leader’s mind and unable to understand the path, he was leading the party. The Congress party, however, strongly denied that the leader was napping and blasted on media for making it an issue. They party said their vice-president was listening the debate with rapt attention and with all the seriousness. At around 12:33 pm, the cameras had caught Rahul nodding off, his head tilting towards right and yawning.
The nap and yawn went viral on the social media, with the BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain comparing Rahul’s sleep with the Congress rule of past 10 years. "Rahul Gandhi was seen sleeping in Parliament during a debate on price rise. That's what the Congress was doing during their 10 year rule," he said while tweeting the image.
The Congress, denied that their leader was sleeping, calling it "factually incorrect". The cameras caught Rahul when CPI-M member P Karunakaran was speaking on the issue of price rise. Congress vice-president was sitting behind Karunakaran. Those reporters present in the front row of press gallery, however, had a different take. They said Rahul’s eyes were not shut. But most of them agreed that right from the beginning, Rahul seemed somewhat lost, perhaps engrossed in deep thinking or meditation.
Congress leader and former union minister Rajiv Shukla said, "In my years in Parliament, I have seen many MPs take what they call catnaps. Sometimes people shut their eyes and listen to debate very carefully." Shukla hitting back the BJP said, "Even Vajpayee used to keep his eyes closed while carefully listening to the debate at the same time. Congress spokesman Abhiskehk Manu Singhvi, while denying his leader was napping, reminded former prime minister H D Devi Gowda’s famous naps on the front benches and almost in every function, he was either chief guest or presiding. He slammed the media for broadcasting these images and making it an issue. His colleague Shukla took Lok Sabha TV to task, saying, they could have avoided broadcasting these pictures. “Such things do happen in Parliament. This is low level journalism." Congress ally NCP leader Praful Patel came to the rescue of Rahul, saying just because someone has closed his eyes, doesn't mean he his sleeping
This controversy has come at a time, when a fierce debate is on within the Congress party on the seriousness and leadership qualities of its 44-year old vice president, who managed to win his party exactly the partly 44 seats in the recently conducted Lok Sabha polls. Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh in a TV interview had stated that Rahul does not have the temperament of a ruler, but later qualified his statement saying, he meant Rahul was not hankering after power. There is serious discomfort in the party on the continued silence of Rahul and his refusal to lead the party in the parliament from the front. In the Parliament Central Hal, the place for political chatterati, during sessions periods, Congress leaders say, they are not only unable to read Rahul’s mind, but also have no idea of direction the way he was leading to the party. Many of Congress MPs say, they were uncertain of their own future. The only solace for them, is to wait for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government going astray as in the BJP circles as well, there are murmurs of dissent on the working style of the Prime Minister.