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Rahul Gandhi Likely To Lead Congress In Lok Sabha: Sources

The suspense over his continuance as the Congress president may linger on for a while but Rahul Gandhi may agree to lead the party’s pack of 52 MPs in the Lok Sabha, highly placed sources have told Outlook.

Rahul Gandhi Likely To Lead Congress In Lok Sabha: Sources
Rahul Gandhi may lead the Congress party in the Lok Sabha
Rahul Gandhi Likely To Lead Congress In Lok Sabha: Sources
outlookindia.com
2019-06-05T18:04:40+0530

The Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP), comprising the party’s lawmakers from both Houses of Parliament, had unanimously re-elected Sonia Gandhi as its chairperson on June 1. As per the Congress constitution, the CPP chairperson is authorised to name the Leaders of the Congress in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

Officially, the party has maintained that nominating the party’s leaders in both Houses of Parliament is a prerogative of the CPP chairperson and no decision to this effect has been taken by Sonia as yet.

However, a party veteran told Outlook that several Congress leaders have, since the June 1 CPP meeting, expressed to the high command that it is “imperative for Rahul to lead the Congress in the Lok Sabha to counter the perception that he is running away from the fight”. Rahul has, so far, remained silent on the demands for him to lead the party’s MPs in the Lok Sabha. A newly elected party lawmaker who met him on June 1 said that “he hasn’t rejected the request and has told us to be prepared with issues that the party can raise in the House to corner the government”.

During his address to the CPP on June 1, Rahul had said that while the party may have just 52 MPs – a seemingly inconsequential bloc compared to the 300+ strong BJP contingent – each Congress lawmaker can “make the BJP jump” if the right issues are raised effectively and that the Grand Old Party won't let the Narendra Modi government have a walkover in Parliament. Skipping a direct mention of her son’s resignation as Congress president, Sonia had heaped high praise on Rahul’s steering of the party and said that “emotional messages are coming from all corners, vindicating his leadership.”

Soon after his party was decimated in the Lok Sabha polls on May 23, Rahul had told the Congress Working Committee (CWC) that he no longer wants to steer the party and that a non-Gandhi should now be in the driver’s seat. Though the CWC unanimously rejected the resignation and authorised Rahul to completely restructure the party organisation, the Nehru-Gandhi scion has remained adamant on stepping down.

A senior party leader said that Rahul, who turns 49 on June 19, wants his replacement as Congress president named within a month and has not begun the exercise of restructuring the organisation as sought by the CWC. “The period of his inactivity as Congress president can be prolonged for a while but we don’t have the luxury for a protracted wait on his role in the Lok Sabha. The Lok Sabha’s new session will begin on June 17 and it is natural that names of the Congress leaders in both Houses, along with those of the deputy leaders and chief whips will be decided before that,” he said.

Sources say that in the Rajya Sabha, it is “widely expected” that senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad “will continue as the Leader of Opposition” while Anand Sharma “may stay on as the deputy leader” for now.

“Azad is a senior leader and his last performance as LoP had been good. He shares cordial relations with leaders across the political spectrum… with Amit Shah as home minister there is already a lot of speculation on the Modi government aggressively pushing its Kashmir agenda on issues like Section 370 and de-limitation of constituencies in J&K. Azad would be the best person in the Congress to speak on such matters,” a Congress leader said.

There is another view, though, that at least one of the posts in the Rajya Sabha should be held either by a woman MP of the party or a leader from the Dalit or a backward community, but sources say no final call has been taken on this yet. The Congress presently has a strength of 50 MPs in the Upper House.

Deciding the party’s leaders in the Rajya Sabha or its chief whips in either House is, however, not a major cause of concern for Sonia, sources said. “The primary objective right now is to have Rahul agree to lead the party in the Lok Sabha. The sense we have got from the leadership is that he is amenable to the idea and a formal announcement will be made next week,” a party leader told Outlook.

The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha is scheduled to commence on July 17 with newly elected members being sworn-in over the next two days and election of the Lok Sabha Speaker slated for July 19. President Ram Nath Kovind will address a joint sitting of members of both Houses of the Parliament on June 20. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the general budget on July 5 while the Parliament session will continue till July 26.

Get the latest election news, analysis, data and live updates on Lok Sabha Elections 2019 here.
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