Sonia in US for treatment, Rahul Congress in charge

August 5th, 2011 - 1:12 am ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi is in the US for an undisclosed medical treatment, the party said Thursday amid intense speculation that she had cancer. Gandhi placed her son Rahul and three others to oversee the country’s oldest party during the two or three weeks she is expected to be be away.

The Congress did not reveal the nature of 64-year-old Sonia Gandhi’s illness but informed sources said that she was being treated at the Memorail Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. The hospital refused to confirm or deny she was admitted there.

The party also did not say when she left India.

Congress chief spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi said Sonia would undergo surgery Friday or Saturday, contradicting his own earlier statement that the operation had already been performed.

He said that Sonia Gandhi had formed a four-member group, including Rahul, a general secretary, to look after party affairs in her absence. Rahul is also, at present, accompanying his mother for the medical treatment abroad.

Besides Gandhi, the others in the group are long-time loyalists Defence Minister A.K. Antony, political secretary to Congress president, Ahmed Patel and Dwivedi himself.

“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,” Dwivedi said here.

Congress sources said she had an abdomen-related ailment.

According to party sources, Gandhi was down with viral fever since Sunday and could not attend meetings of the Congress core committee.

Her last known public engagement was her 24-hour visit to Bangladesh from July 24.

Answering queries on Sonia Gandhi’s health, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said the party had already issued a statement and even public personalities were entitled to certain amount of privacy in medical issues.

“Even public personalities are entitled to certain amount of privacy in so far as the medical attention is concerned and I do hope that our friends in the media would bear that sensitivity in mind,” he said.

Asked if Rahul Gandhi’s presence in the group was an indication of a bigger role for him in the organisation, Tewari said the statment made by Dwivedi did not need elaboration.

“I think there is a certain amount of circumspection and a certain amount of discretion and certain amount of sensitivity that needs to be exercised. As and when if there is any update, we will keep you informed,” he said.

To a question about choice of a cabinet minister in the group, Tewari said the Congress president has entrusted the duty of looking after the day to day affairs of the party to senior persons who have also served in the organisation and there is no need to offer any comment on the committee.

“As I said earlier, I do not think there is any need to comment further on a decision which the Congress president herself has taken,” he said.

Answering another question, Tewari said Rahul Gandhi was accompanying the Congress president.

“Shri Rahul Gandhi is with his mother and as and when there is any update with regard to his travel plans, we will keep you informed,” he said.

On Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wishing Sonia Gandhi speedy recovery, Tewari said if somebody has wished her speedy recovery, there was no need to extrapolate it politically or otherwise.

A party leader said the Congress headquarters had received reports of prayer meetings and ‘havans’ conducted in different parts of the country, wishing Gandhi a speedy recovery.

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