Indian National Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi (R) gestures as his mother and former Congress party senior leader Sonia Gandhi (L) looks on during a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting in New Delhi on May 25, 2019.(AFP file photo)
Indian National Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi (R) gestures as his mother and former Congress party senior leader Sonia Gandhi (L) looks on during a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting in New Delhi on May 25, 2019.(AFP file photo)

Confusion over Congress plan of action in LS, party yet to name floor leader

There is still speculation within the Congress on whether or not Rahul Gandhi will change his mind, but the party has officially maintained that he remains its president.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON JUN 18, 2019 07:44 AM IST

Even as the proceedings of the 17th Lok Sabha began on Monday, the Congress is yet to name its floor leader in the House, underlining the confusion within India’s grand old party as it approaches a new innings on the Opposition benches.

Monday began with speculation whether Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who lost from his stronghold Amethi but was elected from Wayanad in Kerala, would took oath on the first day of the session. Gandhi was not present in the House when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his senior Cabinet colleagues took oath, but soon clarified on Twitter that he would take the oath later in the day.

“My 4th consecutive term as a Member of the #LokSabha begins today. Representing Wayanad, Kerala, I begin my new innings in Parliament by taking my oath this afternoon, affirming that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India,” Gandhi said.

Gandhi had told the Congress Working Committee at a meeting last month that he wanted to resign from the post following the party’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections, in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 303 of the 542 seats.

There is still speculation within the Congress on whether or not Rahul Gandhi will change his mind, but the party has officially maintained that he remains its president.

While Rahul Gandhi finally took oath amid thumping of desks by Congress and other Opposition members in the postlunch proceedings, the party’s parliamentary party leader Sonia Gandhi is expected to take oath on Tuesday.

Neither Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul Gandhi sat at the seat designated for the Leader of the Opposition -- a post that the Speaker is unlikely to offer to the Congress it because it falls three short of the required 55 seats needed to claim it -- fuelling speculation that neither would be the Congress’s floor leader in the new House.

Some party leaders indicated that Kerala MP K Suresh, Punjab MP Manish Tewari and

Shashi Tharoor, who was elected from Thiruvananthapuram, were being considered for the post.

Sonia Gandhi sat through the entire day’s session, in which 320 MPs took oath, exchanging pleasantries with the Prime Minister, and speaking briefly with newly appointed ministers.

“Rahul Gandhi should oversee this transition period. The party is in turmoil and there seems to be no idea who is playing the major role within,’’ political scientist Neera Chandioke said.

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