26 Jun 2024

Rahul Gandhi to be Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha: What Will Be His Role and Responsibilities?

In a move to challenge the ruling BJP-led NDA, Rahul Gandhi has accepted a crucial decision by the Congress Working Committee to assume the position of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. This declaration, revealed on Tuesday, paves the way for an intense initial confrontation in the 18th Lok Sabha between a reinvigorated opposition and a diminished ruling coalition, especially regarding the Speaker's position.

INDIA bloc decided to contest Speaker's election

The Congress and the INDIA bloc, denied the assurance of securing the Deputy Speaker's post, decided to contest the Speaker's election. They nominated K Suresh to oppose the BJP's Om Birla, who was also the previous Lok Sabha Speaker. 

Although the Wednesday election for the Speaker's post is expected to be largely symbolic, given the NDA's simple majority of 272 MPs and additional support from the YSR Congress' 4 MPs, the opposition aims to signal a shift in parliamentary dynamics from those seen in 2014 and 2019.

The decision to appoint Rahul Gandhi as Leader of the Opposition is pivotal, marking the first time since 2014 that any opposition party has secured the requisite 54 seats (10% of the Lok Sabha's strength) to claim the post. 

Rahul will enjoy a cabinet rank

In this role, Rahul will enjoy a cabinet rank, enabling him to effectively champion the causes of the people and the INDIA bloc during a period when the opposition parties are at their most robust in a decade. His focus will likely include addressing issues such as the alleged paper leaks in various examinations, including NEET-UG, and the controversial Agnipath scheme for Army recruitment, both of which have sparked significant protests and emerged as key election issues.

Rahul will participate in crucial panel

As the Leader of the Opposition, Rahul will participate in crucial panels, including those selecting Election Commissioners and the CBI director, alongside the Prime Minister. This constitutional position also affords him the opportunity to engage with visiting heads of state, offering his perspective on national issues.

The announcement followed a meeting of INDIA bloc floor leaders at Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge's residence on Tuesday night. Senior party leader KC Venugopal confirmed the decision, stating that Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi had formally informed Pro-Tem Speaker Bhartruhari Mahtab about Rahul Gandhi's appointment. Additional office bearers will be decided in due course.

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 endorsing Rahul Gandhi for the Leader of the Opposition role. The resolution highlighted Gandhi's instrumental role in the Lok Sabha elections, specifically citing the Bharat Jodo Yatra and the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, which he led. These initiatives were praised as historic turning points in Indian politics, instilling hope and confidence in the party's workers and voters.

Rahul ultimately yielded to the party's insistence

Initially hesitant to accept the position, Rahul ultimately yielded to the party's insistence, reportedly influenced by his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi. Congress President Kharge, in a light-hearted warning, had even threatened disciplinary action if Gandhi did not comply with the Congress Working Committee's decision. 

A Significant Advancement

This new role represents Rahul Gandhi's first constitutional post despite his long tenure in Parliament since 2004. There had been previous attempts to persuade him to accept a Cabinet position between 2004 and 2014, during the UPA's tenure under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but he consistently declined.

Gandhi became Congress president in 2017 but resigned after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, taking responsibility for the party's poor performance. The Congress won only 52 seats, up slightly from 44 in 2014, while the BJP secured 303 seats.

Bharat Jodo Yatra & Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra changed Rahul's image

For much of his career, Rahul has been perceived as a less serious politician, especially compared to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's image as a tireless worker and campaigner. However, this perception began to shift following Gandhi's 4,000-km Bharat Jodo Yatra in 2022-23 and the 6,000-km Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra earlier this year. 

These efforts were reflected not only in the Congress's improved tally of 99 seats in the recent elections but also in Gandhi's substantial victories in the Rae Bareli and Wayanad constituencies, where he won by margins exceeding 3.5 lakh votes.

The INDIA alliance, which includes significant parties such as the Samajwadi Party, the Trinamool Congress, and the DMK, managed to secure 232 seats compared to the BJP's 240 and the NDA's 293.

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