Rahul Gandhi Takes Charge as Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Signals Stronger Opposition Ahead

Featured & Cover Rahul Gandhi Takes Charge as Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Signals Stronger Opposition Ahead

Rahul Gandhi has agreed to take on the role of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, a decision made by the Congress Working Committee. This announcement was made just before the first significant clash of the 18th Lok Sabha between the opposition and the ruling BJP-led NDA, centering on the election of the Speaker.

The Congress and the INDIA bloc were prompted to contest the Speaker’s election after being denied a traditional assurance that an opposition member would be given the Deputy Speaker position. They nominated K Suresh to run against the BJP’s Om Birla, who held the position in the previous Lok Sabha. Although Wednesday’s election for Speaker is anticipated to be largely symbolic, given that it requires a simple majority of 272 MPs and the NDA already has 293 MPs along with support from the YSR Congress’ 4 MPs, the opposition aims to signal that parliamentary dynamics will not be as they were in previous terms.

Rahul Gandhi’s elevation to Leader of the Opposition is seen as a significant move. This is the first time since 2014 that an opposition party has secured enough seats (54, which is 10% of the Lok Sabha’s strength) to claim the post. Along with a cabinet rank, this position allows Gandhi to address the concerns of the people and the INDIA bloc robustly, especially now when the opposition is at its strongest in a decade.

Issues Gandhi is expected to tackle include alleged paper leaks in various exams, like NEET-UG, which has sparked significant protests, and the controversial Agnipath scheme for Army recruitment, which emerged as a major election issue. As Leader of the Opposition, Gandhi will also participate in key panels for selecting Election Commissioners and the CBI director, alongside the Prime Minister. This constitutional role provides him the opportunity to engage with visiting heads of state to present his perspective on national issues.

The decision to appoint Gandhi was announced after a meeting of INDIA bloc floor leaders at Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge’s residence on Tuesday night. “Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson (Sonia Gandhi) wrote a letter to Pro-Tem Speaker Bhartruhari Mahtab, informing him of the decision to appoint Rahul Gandhi as the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Other office bearers will be decided later,” said senior party leader KC Venugopal. However, sources indicated that the Congress’ allies were not informed about the decision during the INDIA meeting.

On June 8, four days after the Lok Sabha election results were declared, the Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body, passed a resolution stating that Rahul Gandhi should be appointed as the Leader of the Opposition. The resolution praised Gandhi’s role in the Lok Sabha elections, stating, “Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi has to be singled out largely because of the Bharat Jodo Yatra and the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra that he designed and led. Both these Yatras that reflected his thinking and personality were historic turning points in our nation’s politics and instilled hope and confidence in lakhs of our workers and crores of our voters.”

Although Gandhi was initially hesitant to take up the post, sources revealed that he eventually agreed due to pressure from his mother, Sonia Gandhi, and sister, Priyanka Gandhi. Additionally, Congress President Kharge had humorously warned Gandhi that disciplinary action would be taken if he did not comply with the Congress Working Committee’s decision. Gandhi himself acknowledged this when he said, “a threat has been made,” during the announcement that he would give up the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat for Priyanka Gandhi to contest from there.

This appointment marks Rahul Gandhi’s first constitutional post despite being in Parliament since 2004. Reports suggested that he was urged to take up a Cabinet position during the UPA’s tenure from 2004 to 2014 under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but he declined. Gandhi became Congress president in 2017 but resigned after the party’s poor performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, taking moral responsibility. The Congress had secured only 52 seats, slightly up from 44 in 2014, while the BJP had won 303 seats.

Throughout much of his career, Gandhi was perceived as a less serious politician, especially compared to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image as a tireless worker and campaigner. However, public perception of Gandhi began to shift following his 4,000-km Bharat Jodo Yatra in 2022-23 and the 6,000-km Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra earlier this year. This change was reflected not only in the Congress’s improved tally of 99 seats in the recent elections but also in Gandhi’s significant victories in the Rae Bareli and Wayanad constituencies, where he won by margins exceeding 3.5 lakh votes.

The INDIA alliance, comprising the Samajwadi Party, the Trinamool Congress, and the DMK, among others, won 232 seats compared to the BJP’s 240 and the NDA’s 293.

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