- Rahul Gandhi says he's going to Italy to meet grandmother
- His mother is leading opposition's strategy for Presidential election
- He visits India between breaks, says BJP
"Rahul Gandhi visits India in between his foreign vacations," said BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao.
The Congress said that the controversy is unnecessary. "Rahul is going to Italy to visit his 93-year-old grandmother, to see how she's been. We strongly criticise those who are trying to politicise this," said spokesperson RS Surjewala. Politically, this is not a quiet season.
The deaths of five Madhya Pradesh farmers - shot by the police during a protest for debt relief and better prices for their produce - has turned into a gigantic political controversy. Mr Gandhi, who will turn 47 while on his trip on July 19, was arrested briefly when he tried to visit the families of the killed farmers in the region of Mandsaur.
Opposition parties like his have said the tragedy exposes the disinterest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP, in providing any relief to farmers reeling from rural distress.
BJP chief Amit Shah has created a committee of three senior ministers to talk to the party's allies - and the opposition - about a suitable replacement for President Pranab Mukherjee, whose term expires on July 24. The government, with the support of regional parties like the TRS from Telangana has enough votes to win an election if it is unable to agree with the opposition on the new occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Though the opposition is aware that it's outnumbered, it believes that the election will allow it an opportunity to measure how well it can work together. Opposition heavyweights like Nitish Kumar have agreed that it would require a formidable grouping of parties to block PM Modi from a second term given his current popularity.
The election for President, if needed, will be held on July 17; counting will be held three days later on the 20.