Chandigarh, Jan 27 : In an obvious sign of differences, at least five Congress MPs were conspicuously absent from Rahul Gandhi's maiden visit to the holy city Amritsar on Thursday to launch the party's poll campaign for the February 20 assembly elections.
However, party General Secretary K.C. Venugopal dismissed the reports.
Flanked by Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and party's state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, Rahul Gandhi kicked off the campaign after paying obeisance at the Golden Temple, Durgiana Mandir and Bhagwan Valmiki temple in Amritsar.
The Members of Parliament -- Manish Tewari, Jasbir Singh Gill, Ravneet Singh Bittu, Preneet Kaur and Mohammad Sadiq -- who did not find Rahul Gandhi's leadership "acceptable", were not present at the day-long visit, party sources told IANS.
Clarifying about the reports of the MPs' 'boycott', Venugopal said in Delhi that these were just baseless rumours and "not true".
Justifying his absence, Gill tweeted, "Only Congress candidates from 117 assembly constituencies were invited not MPs, so no boycott was there, media should verify before running stories." In his earlier tweet, he wrote, "Due to my personal obligation I was not able to attend Amritsar function and for this I had already informed my leadership, no assumptions please." After partaking 'Langar' with both Sidhu and Channi, Rahul held a meeting with party candidates with a message 'Navi Soch, Nava Punjab'.
When Sidhu was asked in Amritsar about the party's chief ministerial face, he told the media, "Our boss is here, you can ask him about this." Later, Rahul started the campaign by addressing a virtual rally from Jalandhar town.
The Congress has so far fielded 109 candidates for the 117-member Assembly. The names of the remaining candidates are yet to be announced.