On Sunday, we were informed by the media that Rahul Gandhi is off to one of his foreign trips again. Ahead of New Years eve, the senior Congress leader left for Milan on a Qatar Airlines Flight. The Congress party has not confirmed the departure but they have not denied the media reports either as of now.
Under normal circumstances, Rahul Gandhi’s foreign trip at a time when his party is backing the ‘farmer protests’ while almost begging him to return as the party president would not raise eyebrows, it is what the country has come to expect of him.
But amidst the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic, a certain aspect of his purported visit to Milan has come to light that demands a closer inspection. People on social media have pointed out that under the Covid norms that are in place Italy, it will be extremely difficult for Rahul Gandhi to enter the country.
Is that so?
The only way he could get around the COVID-19 entry requirements to Italy from India, at the height of the current pandemic measures, is if:
— Ruchir Sharma (@ruchirsharma_1) December 27, 2020
India is currently in List E countries according to the official government website. According to the rules in force for the Christmas and New Year period, people in List E countries can travel to Italy only for work, health or study reasons, absolute urgency and return to one’s own domicile, home, or residence.
The rules state, “Return/entry into Italy from this group of countries is always allowed to Italian/EU/Schengen citizens and their family members, as well as to holders of long-term resident status and their family members.”
“The Ministerial Decree of December 3, 2020 also confirms the possibility of entry into Italy, from these countries, for people who have a proven and stable relationship (even if not cohabiting) with Italian/EU/Schengen citizens or with individuals who are legally resident in Italy (long-term residents), who need to reach their partner’s home/domicile/residence (in Italy),” it adds.
One wonders what specific reason did Rahul Gandhi provide for entering Italy. Health or study reasons seem unlikely. And it is also unlikely that Italy will consider New Year celebrations as an “absolute urgency”. Then the two options that remain are either work or personal familial reasons.
Rahul Gandhi is the leader of a political party in India, therefore, a secretive trip for work-related reasons to a foreign country would naturally raise suspicions. And if it is for work related purposes that he was allowed entry, then Indians deserve more details about the nature of the work.
The other possibility is that Rahul Gandhi has family in Italy who he visits. A lot of people on social media appear to find this reason to be far more plausible. Rahul Gandhi’s maternal family is of Italian origins. Hence, that would be one possibility. Only other family he could have in Italy would be through marriage. And that is not a possibility, as far as we know.
But all of this is a matter of speculation and only the Congress party and the politician himself can provide more clarity to the situation.
BJP leaders have regularly cornered Rahul Gandhi on his foreign trips. In 2017, Amit Shah had stirred the hornet’s nest by asking Rahul Gandhi why he had not taken his SPG cover on his foreign trips and asked him what he was trying to hide. Rajnath Singh, then Home Ministerm, revealed that in the previous two years, Gandhi had been on 6 foreign tours spread over a total of 72 days where he did not take along his SPG cover.