Seven days after returning from the United States, where she underwent treatment for a medical condition, Sonia Gandhi on Thursday resumed her responsibilities as Congress president by chairing a meeting of the party's Central Election Committee (CEC) on next year's critical elections in Uttar Pradesh.
During the 65 minute-long meeting, 70 names for the polls were finalised out of a list of 98 in the 425-seat Assembly, with Ms. Gandhi taking an interest in all the names, sources in the party said. The list will be made public after the remaining 28 are cleared. (Last month, the first list of 73 candidates was released.)
Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, the sources said, “made his points” on the constituencies discussed.
Ms. Gandhi was reported to be her usual self, with some leaders who attended the meeting at 10, Janpath, saying that it was hard to tell from her demeanour that she had undergone a major surgery. “Nobody could make out she had undergone any operation. Touchwood, she was looking quite good,” Congress general secretary in charge of U.P. Digvijay Singh said.
“Ms. Gandhi participated in the meeting today happily and normally as she used to do earlier. As in the past, she came out to welcome Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and see him off after the 65-minute-long meeting. She discussed issues as she used to do earlier,” party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said.
Many of those who attended the meeting greeted a beaming Ms. Gandhi with flowers, the sources said.
Though Ms. Gandhi was not meeting people since her return, she had begun reading papers related to party work and taking decisions related to party appointments. “She is quite fit but doctors have advised her to take some more time to resume all the work she did earlier. It will take her a little more time to recover fully,” Mr. Dwivedi said.
The focus on Thursday was on the state of Ms. Gandhi's health, with a senior Minister saying her participation in Thursday's meeting would send out a positive message to party workers across the country that their leader was back, in good health and, most importantly, in charge.
“Ms. Gandhi's participation in the CEC meeting has sent out a very good message to party workers who have been extremely disturbed by news reports,” the Minister said adding,” they want someone to give them the leadership to take the opposition head-on.”
Indeed, there appears to be a widespread belief in the party that if Ms. Gandhi was here through the last month-and-half, the Anna Hazare-inspired protests would have been handled better. However, on Thursday, neither the Hazare-protest nor rising inflation figured, Mr. Dwivedi clarified