Rahul Gandhi Hesitant to Assume Leader of Opposition Role; Congress Considers Alternatives

Senior leaders Kumari Selja, Gaurav Gogoi and Manish Tewari are being considered as alternatives, while internal pressure mounts for Gandhi to embrace greater parliamentary responsibilities. The position would grant him Cabinet rank and bolster Congress's stance against the BJP.
Representative Image
Representative ImagePTI

New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi, widely expected to assume the role of Leader of the Opposition in the 18th Lok Sabha, is reportedly hesitant to accept the position, as per media reports citing sources within the Congress party. Instead, senior leaders Kumari Selja, Gaurav Gogoi, and Manish Tewari are being considered for the role.

Following a significant improvement in the recent Lok Sabha elections, where the Opposition secured 232 seats, with Congress contributing 99, there is anticipation surrounding the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition after a decade.

Despite Congress's commendable performance, largely credited to Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra, he faces internal pressure to take on more parliamentary responsibilities.

The position of Leader of the Opposition would accord Gandhi Cabinet rank, enhance coordination with allies within the INDIA bloc, and bolster Congress's stance by spearheading the Opposition's efforts against the BJP in the Lok Sabha.

However, since resigning as party chief following the 2019 electoral defeat, Gandhi has shown little interest in assuming any formal role.

Moreover, Gandhi has opted to represent his mother Sonia Gandhi's constituency, Raebareli, in parliament, relinquishing Wayanad, which his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is expected to contest.

While Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has indicated that the decision on the Leader of the Opposition will be made in due course, pressure is mounting on Gandhi to accept the role. In the event of his refusal, senior MPs such as Kumari Selja, Manish Tewari, and Congress Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha Gaurav Gogoi are potential contenders.

Despite unanimous support within Congress for Gandhi to assume the role of Leader of the Opposition, he has distanced himself from parliamentary duties, despite being the party's prominent figure in the Lok Sabha for the past decade.

Several opposition leaders also endorse his appointment, believing it would provide a balance between north and south India in Congress leadership, with Mallikarjun Kharge serving as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

Meanwhile, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who chose not to contest in the general election to focus on party campaigning, has reservations about all three Gandhis being in parliament, concerned that it could bolster the BJP's narrative of "dynastic politics." Sonia Gandhi continues to serve as a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Can Kharge Become the LoP?

Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress president and prominent Dalit leader, currently serves as a Rajya Sabha member and holds the position of Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. He represented Karnataka's Gulbarga constituency from 2009 to 2014.

Kharge did not contest the 2024 elections, which disqualifies him from holding the position of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Despite this, he was the sole opposition leader from the INDIA bloc to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his new cabinet on 9th June. Kharge cited his "constitutional duty" as the reason for his attendance.

Explaining his presence at the event, Kharge stated to reporters, "Attending this event is part of my constitutional duty. As the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, it is my responsibility to be present."

What Happened in the Recent CWC Meeting?

According to a report from Deccan Herald, on 17th June, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, and Congress General Secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal met to discuss which parliamentary seat Gandhi should retain. During the meeting, Kharge was questioned about the decision regarding the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Kharge responded, "That is a matter for the future...we will decide soon."

Senior leader Digvijaya Singh introduced an oral resolution during the meeting, which garnered unanimous support, urging Gandhi to take up the post. Kharge humorously remarked that as party president, he would have to enforce party discipline against Gandhi if he did not comply. Gandhi later referred to Kharge's "threat" in his media statement, though he did not disclose his intentions.

A senior Congress leader discussed the advantages and challenges of Gandhi assuming the role, emphasizing the organizational hurdles facing the party. They highlighted the need for strategic focus in states like Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, where the party did not secure seats, as well as in states like Gujarat, Karnataka, and Telangana, where it underperformed.

"The question is whether Rahul will be overburdened," the leader noted, underscoring the importance of weighing all factors.

Conversely, another faction believes that Gandhi's presence as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha would unsettle the BJP, given his role as a prominent challenger to Narendra Modi, while maintaining that the party avoided turning the contest into a personal rivalry. They also argue that his leadership would enhance cohesion within the I.N.D.I.A bloc.

You can also join our WhatsApp group to get premium and selected news of The Mooknayak on WhatsApp. Click here to join the WhatsApp group.

The Mooknayak English - Voice Of The Voiceless