CWC urges Rahul to take on Leader of Opposition mantle in LS; Sonia Gandhi re-elected CPP chief

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New Delhi, Jun 8 (PTI) The Congress' top decision-making body, CWC, on Saturday unanimously urged Rahul Gandhi to take the mantle of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, as the buoyed party expressed its resolve to take on the new government aggressively and build on its gains in the Lok Sabha polls.

While Rahul Gandhi said he would take a decision "very soon", former party president Sonia Gandhi was re-elected as chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party by the newly-elected MPs of the Lok Sabha and members of the Rajya Sabha at a meeting held in the Central all of Parliament.

After over three hours of deliberations on the party's assessment of Lok Sabha results and its strategy for strengthening the organisation, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) decided to set up separate committees to review its performance in all states, including those ruled by the party, where the performance was lower than expected.

In a resolution adopted by the CWC, party general secretary K C Venugopal said, the CWC requested Rahul Gandhi to take the Leader of the Opposition position in the Lok Sabha.

"Rahul Gandhi is the best person to lead this campaign inside the Parliament, this is what the CWC's view was...the entire CWC feels for a better and strong vigilant Opposition, those who want to protect the Constitution also, should be safe under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi as a Leader of Opposition, this is what the CWC resolution is," he said.

"Rahul Gandhi said he respects the sentiments of the CWC members and told them that he would take a decision on it very soon," he told reporters.

The resolution also said that the CWC would be failing in its duty if it did not take note of the disappointing performance in some states in the midst of overall revival and called for urgent steps to address the shortcomings.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the review of the performance in such states would be done by the Committees and a report would be presented to the party chief soon.

In his opening remarks, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said the Lok Sabha poll mandate is a "decisive rejection" of the politics of divisiveness and hate, and stressed that the INDIA bloc must continue functioning cohesively both inside and outside Parliament.

"We could not repeat our performance in states where we had previously done well in Vidhan Sabha elections and formed the government," he said, adding that separate discussions on each such state will be held soon.

"We have to take urgent remedial measures," he said.

"People have spoken against the dictatorial and anti-democratic ways of the ruling party. It is a decisive rejection of the politics of the last 10 years," Kharge said.

"I want to draw your attention to the fact that wherever Bharat Jodo Yatra went we saw an increase in the vote percentage and number of seats for the Congress party," he said.

Kharge also said, "Our determination is that the INDIA group must continue. We must function cohesively and collectively both in Parliament and outside." The CWC expressed happiness at the Congress's turnaround and admitted that many challenges remain.

"We still have a long way to go to occupy the pre-eminent position the party once held in the nation's political life. The people of India have spoken- the Congress has been given another chance. It is now up to us to build on it. We must and we will. That is the solemn resolve," the resolution said.

The CWC said, "The verdict of the people is not just a political loss but a personal and moral defeat for the prime minister who sought the mandate in his name and ran a campaign anchored in lies, hate, prejudice, divisiveness and extreme bigotry.

"The verdict of the people is clearly against the undermining of democracy and democratic institutions that has taken place since 2014." During the CPP meeting, Kharge proposed a resolution on re-electing Sonia Gandhi as the CPP chief which was seconded by Gaurav Gogoi and supported by party leaders Tariq Anwar and K Sudhakaran.

The resolution was adopted unanimously with a show of hands and the thumping of desks.

In her address at the meet, Sonia Gandhi described the Lok Sabha election results as a "political and moral defeat" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, she said, has lost the moral right to leadership.

She said the prime minister had sought the mandate solely in his name to the exclusion of both his party and its allies but has suffered a political and moral defeat.

"Yet, far from taking the responsibility for failure he intends to get himself sworn in again tomorrow. We do not expect him to change the substance and style of his governance, nor take cognisance of the will of the people," she said.

"That is why, as members of the CPP, we have a special obligation to be watchful, vigilant and proactive in holding him and his new NDA government accountable. No longer can and should Parliament be bulldozed like it has been for a decade now," she said.

"No longer can and should parliamentary committees be ignored or bypassed like they have been since 2014. No longer will Parliament be muzzled and stifled as it has been over the past 10 years," the CPP chief said.

Terming her re-election as a very emotional moment, she said, "I will do my best and more to fulfil the trust and confidence you have continued to place in me".

She also said the Bharat Jodo Yatras were "historic movements" and lauded Rahul Gandhi, saying he deserves special thanks for his tenacity and determination to fight.

She, however, cautioned the MPs and asked them to reflect on what needs to be done to improve the party's position in the states where its performance has been below expectation.

She said the Congress has once again demonstrated its resilience. It was up against a "mighty and malevolent machine" that was doing its utmost to destroy the party, she said.

"It tried to cripple us financially. It carried out a campaign against us and our leaders that was full of lies and defamation," she said.

Sonia Gandhi lauded Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge's role, saying, "Many wrote our obituaries. But under the determined leadership of Khargeji, we persevered. He is an inspiration to all of us." Asked about her re-election, Sonia Gandhi told reporters, "There is nothing new in it". On whether Rahul Gandhi will take the post of Leader of Opposition (LoP), she said. "You should ask him." To a query on the CWC resolution on LoP, Rahul Gandhi told reporters, "Let us see".

Kharge, in his address at the CPP meet, said, "Modiji does not want the opposition to raise public issues in the House. He considers it an insult to answer the opposition's questions." PTI ASK/SKC AO RT RT