Timeline: Rahul Gandhi, lost and found

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Image: Reuters/Parivartan Sharma
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Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who was on an almost two-month-long sabbatical, is back.

The Gandhi scion took an impromptu break from politics on Feb. 23 and has returned to India after 53 days. He had applied for a leave to his mother Sonia Gandhi, who is the Congress president, “to reflect on recent events and future course of the party” for “a few weeks.”

The start of Gandhi’s sabbatical coincided with the first day of parliament’s budget session.

Since there had been no information on where the 44-year-old chose to introspect all this while—or even the duration of his leave—several rumours about him surfaced in the last two months.

Here’s a timeline of what happened when Gandhi went missing in action:

Feb. 23: Rahul Gandhi goes on sabbatical. There is no formal announcement, causing a flurry of media speculations and social media reactions. He is assumed to be holidaying abroad in Europe, camping in Uttarakhand, travelling to Vietnam, or to Myanmar. Hashtags, including #WhereIsRahul and #RahulOnLeave trend on Twitter for the next three days. The newspaper Indian Express reports that the parliamentarian was upset about not getting a “free hand” in the Congress.

Feb. 25: Even Congress party leaders voice their unhappiness. ”He’s entitled to have a leave for a holiday, but the timing was wrong, because we had the budget session going on, and the issue of land acquisition was to be debated, he could have gone when there was a recess,” party leader Digvijaya Singh reportedly said.

Feb. 28: Union budget is presented in the parliament.

March 12: Rumours abound that Gandhi will be back on March 20, even as the Congress officials “urge friends of media not to believe canards being spread by vested interests,” and “respect the privacy of Gandhi.”

March 13: In Gandhi’s absence, former prime minister Manmohan Singh comes under the scanner in a coal scam case. Sonia leads a march to Singh’s residence, along with other party members, to express solidarity.

March 15: A policeman visits Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi to seek personal details, such as the the colour of Congress leader’s eyes and hair. Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi terms it political espionage, snooping, surveillance, and intrusion. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the police call it “a routine security survey.”

March 17: Sonia Gandhi takes forward her son’s pro-farmer approach. She marches to the Rashtrapati Bhavan with 17 other political parties to protest against the BJP’s land acquisition bill.

March 25: “Missing” posters appear on railway stations, bus stops and markets in Gandhi’s constituency of Amethi, in Uttar Pradesh. Signed under “people of Amethi Lok Sabha constituency,” the posters declare rewards for any information on the “missing Amethi MP.” Similar posters appear in Bulandshahr and Allahabad. The Congress blames the posters on the BJP, though the latter denies any involvement.

April 2: Sonia Gandhi on her visit to villages in Madhya Pradesh says, ”Rahul Gandhi will come back soon, and will be among you people,” without giving a date of his return.

April 14: Congress member and former Delhi chief minister Shiela Dikshit questions Gandhi’s commitment towards his work.

April 16: Rahul Gandhi arrives in New Delhi at 11.15am on a Thai Airways plane from Bangkok, after his flight was delayed by 40 minutes, according to news agency Press Trust of India. He unites with his mother Sonia and sister Priyanka Vadra at his Tughlak Lane residence. Hashtags #RahulReturns, #RahulGandhi and #PappuRahul trend on Twitter.