Differing views in Cong on who should lead the party in LS

NEW DELHI, May 30: Political leadership of the party has to be its face to the nation as well, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said today amid a fierce debate within the party on who should take the role of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Tharoor, who had earlier openly said that the Congress President Sonia Gandhi should take the responsibility as leader of the party in Lok Sabha putting an end to the system of dual leadership, however, refrained from naming anyone.

“Political leadership of the party has to be the face of the party to the nation as well,” party spokesperson Tharoor said at an AICC briefing.

His remarks came with different sections in the party advocating separate choices for the Leader of Opposition.

Congress has recorded its worst-ever performance getting only 44 seats. While there is no problem for Congress in getting the post of Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha as it has the requisite numbers, its ability to get the same in Lok Sabha has come under scrutiny as its tally is much less than 55 required.

However, party leaders have been maintaining that while there are some statutory requirements to get the perks of the Leader of the Opposition, there is “absolutely no legal bar” on the Speaker from naming a leader of the single largest party or group as Leader of the Opposition for functional purposes.

While a number of senior leaders want Sonia Gandhi to take over as the Leader of Opposition, the leaders mentored and given responsibilities by the Congress Vice President want him to lead the pack in the Lower House arguing that it was he, who was the face of the party in the Lok Sabha polls, and hence he should not “shy away” from taking responsibility in difficult times for the party.

There were earlier indications from the party that senior most MP in Lok Sabha and former Parliamentary Minister Kamal Nath could be made Leader of the Opposition.

Those advocating his name suggest that apart from his long experience in Parliament, the BJP may agree on his name than on any of the Gandhis.

However, there are others who feel that a consensus in the party could be built only on Gandhis.

Replying to questions about the role of Rahul Gandhi, Tharoor said that the Congress President will decide it.

A Congress leader speaking on condition of anonymity said, “I am of the opinion that Sonia Gandhi should be Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha as she is also the party President. We should not repeat the dual leadership practice this time.

“If due to any circumstance, she does not take it up, Rahul Gandhi is the second best choice. Any third person being made the LoP will keep the message that Rahul is not keen on taking responsibility.”

The leader said that the party should not be sending confusing signals among party workers and the voters as to where the leadership of Congress lies.

Asked if assigning this responsibility to Sonia Gandhi will not put a question mark future leadership of Rahul Gandhi in the party as the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha is the shadow PM, the Congress leader said that the party President was earlier also leader of the party but the Prime Ministership went to Manmohan Singh.

At the AICC briefing, Tharoor said, “On Saturday, we have unanimously decided to elect the Congress President as leader of Congress Parliamentary Party. It is for her to elect Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.”

Replying to questions about the responsibility of the leadership for the party’s debacle, Tharoor said that the Congress Working Committee had rejected resignation offers of both Sonia and Rahul pledging to work under their leadership.

“They have the responsibility to lead us out of this difficult situation we find ourselves in,” he said.

Tharoor also downplayed attacks by some leaders in public and private on Rahul Gandhi and his team and maintained that it is “mystery why we lost despite our performance”.

“Silence is also a process of introspection. It is something that is taking place within.. Perhaps we did not have as much voters with us.

“…Despite our performance, we lost. Our performance (UPA’s) record is very good, second to none. The process of introspection is on. Dozens of Congressmen are meeting the Congress President and the Vice President,” he said. (PTI)

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