Rahul to take call on accepting leader of opposition post; Sonia named Congress Chairperson

This will be the first time that the Congress, since its ouster from power in 2014, will get the post of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during the extended Congress Working Committee meeting, in New Delhi, Saturday, June 8, 2024.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during the extended Congress Working Committee meeting, in New Delhi, Saturday, June 8, 2024.(Photo| PTI)

The Congress Working committee on Saturday unanimously elected Sonia Gandhi as the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) Chairperson. Extending her wishes to the newly elected parliamentarians of Congress, the veteran politician said that she is "deeply conscious of the great responsibility" assigned to her yet again.

Lauding the efforts of her party workers in the general elections, she said, "You have fought a tough election under the most challenging of circumstances. You have surmounted many obstacles and campaigned so very effectively. Your success has given us a much greater presence in the Lok Sabha and a more effective voice in its proceedings, both of which will help give greater strength to our participation."

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during the extended Congress Working Committee meeting, in New Delhi, Saturday, June 8, 2024.
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The extended working committee meeting convened on Saturday had also passed a resolution urging Rahul Gandhi to take over as the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The 53-year-old leader is yet to take the final call.

Several Congress leaders are pushing Gandhi to accept the position citing that he will play a crucial role and stressing how it will ultimately strengthen the party.

The Congress had emerged as the second-largest party in the Lok Sabha, improving its tally to 99 from 52 in the 2019 elections. They have also received the support of an independent candidate.

At a press conference following the meeting of the extended Congress Working Committee (CWC), party general secretary KC Venugopal confirmed that CWC members unanimously requested Gandhi to take on the Leader of Opposition role.

"Rahul Gandhi said he would take a decision on it very soon," Venugopal said.

This will be the first time that the Congress, since its ouster from power in 2014, will get the post of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

It failed to get the position in the past 10 years as its tally was below the requisite 10 per cent of total seats in the House, both in 2014 and 2019.

On Saturday, Telangana Chief Minister Revanth Reddy said that this is the demand of 140 crore Indians. "We don't know about the agenda of the CWC meeting yet. Our demand is the same as that of 140 crore Indians. Rahul Gandhi has to take the position as the leader of the Opposition. Rahul Gandhi has been fighting for women and the unemployed," he said.

TNIE had earlier reported that several Congress MPs have pitched the name of Rahul Gandhi, who won Lok Sabha polls from both Wayanad and Raebareli, to become the Leader of Opposition in the 18th Lok Sabha.

Speaking to TNIE, Gogoi said the former AICC President’s dedication to protecting the Constitution was a theme that echoed in every nook and corner of the country, and hence, he is the right person to lead the party in Parliament. However, the final decision is taken by the Congress Parliamentary Party, he said.

According to the Congress Constitution, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Party is empowered to name the leaders of the party in the two Houses of Parliament and Sonia Gandhi is likely to be re-elected as Chairperson of the CPP.

Party sources said it will depend on Sonia if she decides to name Rahul Gandhi as the party's leader in Lok Sabha or opts for some other leader. Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge is likely to continue as the Leader of the Opposition in the upper House of Parliament.

Sources said there is less expectation of a decision on the issue tomorrow and she may also opt to do it later through a press release.

This comes amid growing public support from senior leaders within the party for Rahul to become the LoP.

On Friday, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor hailed Rahul as "the man of the match" of the Lok Sabha polls and said it would be fitting that he take on the mantle of the LoP in the Lower House.

"He and Congress president (Mallikarjun) Kharge campaigned extensively throughout the country, but Mr Kharge is in the Rajya Sabha, where he leads the Opposition, and it would only be fitting that Rahul Gandhi does the same in the Lok Sabha. I have certainly conveyed my view both publicly and privately in that regard," Tharoor said.

"I think we have a strong number now to stand up to the government and it (the Leader of Opposition) should be a leader who is undoubtedly the most popular in the party," the CWC member said, referring to Gandhi.

Similarly, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar also pitched Rahul's name for the post. "We want Rahul Gandhi as the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament... Rahul Gandhi said to us today that we should win the hearts of people who didn't vote for us," Shivakumar said.

Addressing the media after the CWC, Venugopal also said the party's leaders and workers are charged up and asserted that the CWC sentiment is that the Congress' revival has begun.

The CWC adopted two resolutions, one hailing the role of Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for the party's performance in the Lok Sabha polls.

It also credited the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatras for its good performance.

The CWC resolution also said the people's verdict was not just a political loss but a personal and moral defeat for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had sought a mandate in his name.

Congress fought the election as part of the India bloc and the parties together were able to prevent BJP from getting a majority on its own in Lok Sabha. The BJP-led NDA won 293 in the polls.

(With additional inputs from ENS, ANI and PTI)

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during the extended Congress Working Committee meeting, in New Delhi, Saturday, June 8, 2024.
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