New Delhi: Increasing its numbers in the Lok Sabha by only eight since 2014, the Congress has now to decide its leader in the lower house and it remains to be seen if party chief Rahul Gandhi takes the role or some other leader is chosen.
The Congress again does not have numbers to get the status of the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, as was the case in 2014. It had then chosen Mallikarjun Kharge as its leader in the House though there were suggestions then that Gandhi – who was not the party chief then – should take the post.
However, with Gandhi insisting on quitting as party chief at the Congress Working Committee meeting on Saturday, despite the party’s highest decision-making body rejecting his resignation, it is unclear if he will accept this post.
Also the role of the legislature party leader entails regular presence in the House and it remains be seen if Gandhi can manage, given his campaign commitments.
The party will not have some of its articulate leaders from the outgoing Lok Sabha including Kamal Nath, who is now Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, K.C. Venugopal, who is now General Secretary (Organisation) besides Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sushmita Dev and Deepender Hooda, who lost the election.
If Gandhi again decides not to take the post, the party will have to choose a leader with sufficient seniority who is able to strongly articulate issues.
With the party having won the maximum seats – 15 – in Kerala followed by eight in Tamil Nadu, there is strong possibility that someone from the south – which accounts for half of the Congress’ number in the Lok Sabha – could be chosen, given the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad hails from Jammu and Kashmir.
The names doing the rounds from Kerala include former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor, party MP Suresh Kodikunnil, who will be into his seventh Lok Sabha term and K Muraleedharan, the son of former Chief Minister K. Karunakaran and now in his fourth term as MP.