Congress asks Rahul Gandhi to become the Leader of the Opposition

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) has unanimously adopted a resolution asking Rahul Gandhi to become the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the 18th Lok Sabha. Taking note of the sentiments expressed at the party’s highest decision-making body, Mr. Gandhi said he will think it over and decide “very soon”.

Party president Mallikarjun Kharge urged him to “abide” by the CWC’s formal resolution and take up the responsibility. The Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) comprising the newly-elected Lok Sabha members and Rajya Sabha members also met later at the historic Central Hall of Samvidhan Sadan (Old Parliament) and re-elected Sonia Gandhi as the chairperson after her name was proposed by Mr. Kharge.

The CWC praised the party’s Lok Sabha performance under adverse conditions, but the party decided to set up separate committees in States, including party-ruled Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana, to find out why the performance was below expectations and what could be done to correct the situation.

In its resolution, the CWC noted that the people of the country had placed the party firmly on the path of revival but challenges still remain. “The people of India have spoken — the Congress has been given another chance. It is now up to us to build on it. We must and we will,” read the CWC resolution.

The resolution also highlighted Mr. Gandhi’s contribution, especially how the Bharat Jodo Yatra and the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra became “historic turning points in our nation’s politics and instilled hope and confidence in lakhs of our workers and crores of our voters”.

Inside the closed-door meeting of the extended CWC, most members argued that Mr. Gandhi needs to take up the LoP position to build on the momentum generated by the Lok Sabha results. Senior leader Digvijaya Singh was the first leader to move a motion but several others joined in to make it a chorus. Lok Sabha member Gaurav Gogoi said Mr. Gandhi would be a powerful voice of the 235 Opposition members in the Lower House. Party leader Partap Singh Bajwa argued that as LoP, Mr. Gandhi can force the government to deliver on some of the guarantees like scrapping the Agniveer scheme, making minimum support price (MSP) for farmers a legal right and corner the government over the provisions of the Constitution.

Lauding her brother’s determination, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra told the CWC that even if she had a doubt about the party’s performance, Mr. Gandhi had unflinching faith in Congress’s ability to bounce back and perform. She said personal attacks and ridicule by the BJP over the past 10 years could not shake his confidence.

Reflecting on the results, Mr. Gandhi said those who had to leave have done so and those who remain with the party and in Opposition ranks are the real “warriors of democracy”. He also praised the party’s campaign and communication strategy that allowed the Congress to fight the elections on its own turf instead of reacting to the BJP.

Speakers like Manish Tewari also noted that efforts at polarisation did not work as the party kept its focus on livelihood issues. “The BJP had only one agenda: to divide the people. They had no answer to unemployment, price rise, Agniveer issue, but the Congress party and INDIA alliance stood very strongly and we stuck with our guarantees, our narrative,” party general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal told the media at a briefing with his colleague, Jairam Ramesh.

Mr. Kharge also praised party treasurer Ajay Maken for managing the election expenses well despite a severe fund crunch because of curbs put on the party’s bank accounts by the Income Tax department.

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