BJP will have no walkover in Lok Sabha, says Rahul Gandhi as Congress admits party can't stake claim for post of LoP

After keeping his distance from the media and social media after the recent poll defeat, Rahul Gandhi on Saturday took to Twitter to congratulate his mother Sonia Gandhi on being elected the leader of the Congress parliamentarians. He also used the platform to assert that his party's strength may be small in the Lok Sabha but that doesn't mean they would allow the BJP to have a "walkover in the House."

Rahul said that all the 52 Congress MPs in the Lok Sabha will "work together like a pride of brave-hearted lions" to protect the Constitution, even though the party was two MPs short of qualifying as the main Opposition party.

 BJP will have no walkover in Lok Sabha, says Rahul Gandhi as Congress admits party cant stake claim for post of LoP

File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi with senior party leaders. Twitter@RahulGandhi

What Rahul meant was that the Congress, which "accepted people's verdict" in the recently conducted Lok Sabha election, might not have the strength to even claim the official position of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House, but it will make the right noises to remain relevant as India's primary alternative to the BJP. Congress still remains the largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also said that the "onus" was on the ruling party to choose to formally designate the party as the "principal opposition". He said, "It's a fact that the (main Opposition party) should be 10 percent of the strength of House. Since we're two (MPs) short, officially we can't have a Leader of Opposition."

"However, the onus also lies at the doorstep of the government — whether they want to designate a party formally as principal opposition or not." Surjewala said.

His statement was an echo of the Congress party's long standing demand since the 16th Lok Sabha, when it failed for the first time to get enough MPs elected to the House to claim the position of the main Opposition party. Then Leader of the Congress party, Mallikarjun Kharge had refused to attend key meetings, including the one meant to pick the Lokpal for India, on this ground that his party did not want a mere symbolic presence, if the government was not willing to give him the rights that the Leader of the Opposition exercises. The party had pointed out that in favour of the democracy, the BJP should legislate to remove the 10 percent strength bar to be designated as the primary Opposition party, and change the criteria to let the single largest Opposition party play the role.

Surjewala's comments were also a partial retraction, or a clarification of sorts, of the comments made by Congress leader K Suresh earlier in the day.

Suresh had told ANI that UPA chairperson Sonia will "nominate" a Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. He had added, "We will claim the Leader of Opposition and Deputy Speaker posts."

Congress held the CPP meeting a day after the new Cabinet under Prime Minister Narendra Modi was assigned their portfolios on Friday.

Reportedly, the Congress Parliamentary Party authorised Sonia to pick the party's leader in the Lok Sabha and Chief Whip. Rahul also tweeted in congrats for his mother's election, and said, "Under her leadership, the Congress will prove to be a strong and effective opposition party, that will fight to defend the Constitution of India."

The meeting, which was held for the first time since the declaration of the results of the General Election, was attended by all 52 newly-elected Lok Sabha MPs of the Congress. The party's Rajya Sabha members were also expected to be present at the meeting, PTI reported. Members of the Congress Working Committee were also present at the meeting.

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Updated Date: Jun 01, 2019 16:32:38 IST