Sonia picks Mallikarjun Kharge over ‘unwilling’ Rahul as Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha

Mallikarjuna Kharge said his party would not function as an "opposition for opposition sake".

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: June 3, 2014 8:20 am
Sonia and Rahul head to address the media in Delhi Friday. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi with party president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi.

With Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi reluctant to take on the responsibility of leading his party in the Lok Sabha, party chief Sonia Gandhi on Monday nominated Mallikarjun Kharge as the leader of the party in the lower house. However, it is still unclear whether the Congress, with its all-time low tally of 44, will get the Leader of the Opposition status.

While Sonia was reportedly not keen to take up the post, apparently because of health reasons, several Congress leaders, including Digvijaya Singh and Shashi Tharoor, had said that Rahul should lead the party in the Lok Sabha. Although party leaders welcomed Sonia’s decision on Monday, they privately said it was time for Rahul to shed his reluctance.

“Individuals may have their views, but as loyal Congressmen and women, we will all rally around the party leader and give him our unstinting support,” Tharoor told The Indian Express. He had earlier argued that the Congress should “end this experiment with diarchy” where the leader of the party is different from the leader of the party’s governmental or parliamentary wing. He had said the party’s leader in the LS should be either Sonia or Rahul.

Even the Indian Youth Congress, which had passed a resolution asking Rahul to lead the party in the LS, changed its tune on Monday. “Whatever Soniaji has decided, that is fine,” said IYC president and newly-elected Lok Sabha MP Rajeev Satav.

Sources said the uncertainty over whether the Congress would get the Leader of the Opposition status was just one factor that weighed on the leadership’s mind. A more important factor was Rahul’s reluctance to take up the post — a full time job that would require him to devote more time and energy in Parliament.

Sources in the Rahul camp said his focus now was on rebuilding the party and regaining lost ground.

“It will once again send a wrong signal that he is a non-serious politician,” said a party leader on condition of anonymity.

In the last Lok Sabha, Rahul was among the worst performers — both in terms of attendance and participation. Data from PRS Legislative Research showed Rahul had an attendance of just 42 per cent till mid-February, much below the national average of 76 per cent. In fact, he was among the bottom 30 MPs across all parties when it came to attendance.

He participated in just two debates during the entire term, asked no questions and brought in no private member Bills. Rahul’s interventions in this Lok Sabha include one on the Lokpal Bill.

Kharge, 71, the party’s veteran Congress leader from Karnataka and its Dalit face in the state, is a second-term MP. He is also a nine-time MLA, having never lost an election, and was the Leader of the Opposition in Karnataka. In UPA II, he was first made the Labour Minister and then given the key Railways portfolio.

With the Congress winning nine seats from the state, “it is only fair that we reward Karnataka,” said a senior party general secretary. It is now for the new Speaker to recognise the Congress as the main opposition group so that its leader can get the status of Leader of the Opposition.

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  1. gkd allseethru1
    Jun 3, 2014 at 2:59 am
    The is scared that he will make a fool of himself daily.
    1. N
      N K N
      Jun 3, 2014 at 4:32 am
      If they chose somebody younger like Sachin Pilot or Jyothiraditya Scindia, there would be comparison with their performance to Rahuls... Now mommy wouldn't want THAT..would she???? Rahul doesn't have the spine... he doesn't have the party workers respect nor the peoples... He says he wants to work for the "party"... o??!!! wasn't he working for it for the past soo many years??? and look where the party is now- Oh! C'mon guys lets give him a big round of applause for driving it to the ground this election clapsclapsclaps!!! RG dug his partys' grave and now this joker has tricked all those who believed in the party AND him, to jump into this grave. With this decision,he is now covering it up and soon will be seen dancing over it... This was his GOLDEN opportunity to change his image.. what does he think about the ppl of this country- that they are all stupid and illiterate fools to tolerate his gimmicks???? C'mon man..!!! We have had it with ur "new age thinking" and empty and soulless speeches....Dear congress loyalists, i have one request. If you sincerely believe in ur party, pls weed out the hi ss and rebuild a party worthy of leading this country... SG and RG (PG and Vardra too) are the s that feeds on sufferings of the poor, needy and the naive... I would like to see a good opposition party in the parliament against BJP. Only then will we see strong sustainable democratic growth. Not another puppet under the scamster Italian madamji...
      1. B
        Jun 2, 2014 at 7:46 pm
        Why should he work. He is the 4th generation of scoundrels that never did anything except looting the nation. It is not his fault really. He is used to getting cream while some others take the blame or do the work (or not). OMG, attending the Parliament sessions, understanding the issues and asking questions? That is too much below his level.Don't blame the guy. Give him a lollypop and let him play.
        1. P
          Jun 2, 2014 at 6:13 pm
          A person whose attendance and work as MP is in question how come he can aspire to be PM? Second point is how the in this country inter party democracy is destro by this dynasty? RG is not fit to be member of Parliament let alone bring any bill to it. If he had contested from anywhere else than Amethi he would have lost deposit. His party is run by one family and now party parliamentary leader is nominated instead of elected one. Hypocrisy thy name is congress((NC) at best.
          1. A
            Jun 3, 2014 at 3:31 am
            In Hindi there is a saying :"Chit bhi meri aur Pat bhi meri). If you choose from hi family it is dynastic rule and if you choose a senior member outside the family, the hi family member is afraid/reluctant/incapable! This is how critics would say. I think this is a clear indication that as long as there is no common non-hi leader to head INC, hi family member will continue to lead. Congress invited a reluctant Sonia to lead. She did not impose herself. Let them now rebuild the ground level support while Rahul tries to improve the organisation set up. Many congress supporters who never voted against its candidate, this time chose Modi's (NOT BJP's) men to ensure that he gets absolute majority and put the country back on rails.
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