The Congress is unlikely to get the post of the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in Lok Sabha for a second time in a row as it has yet again failed to get 10% seats in Parliament’s lower House.
To get the LoP post, a party should get 55 out of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. At the time of filing this report, the Congress had won or was leading on 52 seats, three short of the numbers needed to get the post.
After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance government came to power in 2014, it refused to give the LoP post to the Congress arguing that with 44 members it did not meet the requisite criteria.
There were protests from the Opposition as the LoP is part of the selection panels for key appointments to statutory bodies such as the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Lokpal. The LoP is also on the panel to select the Central Bureau of Investigation director.
The Congress raised the issue with then Speaker Sumitra Mahajan insisting that it should get the post as it was the largest opposition party and had pre-poll alliances in certain states. But she too declined the request, citing the past precedents and the attorney general’s opinion.
The government was finally compelled to include Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge in the selection panels but it refused to accord him the LoP status.
Previously, it was in 1985 that the then Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar did not give the LoP post to the Telugu Desam Party, which was then the second largest party after the Congress.
It depends entirely on the government whether to give the LoP post to the Congress considering it has marginally improved its performance this time.
The Congress will separately now deliberate on the poll outcome. The Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, is meeting on Saturday to draw up its future plans.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has taken the responsibility for the poll debacle and might even offer to step aside at the CWC meeting. His entire team of general secretaries and in-charges of states may also follow suit.
In 2014, after the drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections, then Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the then party vice-president, offered to resign but the CWC unanimously rejected it.
Saturday’s meeting could see a repeat of that. The CWC will also review the shortcomings in communicating the party’s Nyay (Nyuntam Aay Yojana) promise to the voters. The party had promised a minimum guaranteed income of Rs 72,000 annually to the country’s 20% poor families under the scheme.
But reports from the ground suggested that the voters were not excited about the poll promise, given that Congress leaders and workers failed to effectively publicise the proposed poverty alleviation scheme.
Rahul Gandhi, who lost his family pocket borough of Amethi but won from Wayanad in Kerala, is also expected to carry out an extensive overhaul of the organisation.
Four states -- Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir -- will be going to the polls later this year. Assembly elections in Delhi will be held in February next year.
Rahul Gandhi has the task cut out for him now – to make the party fighting fit in these states, especially to take on the BJP which boasts of well-oiled machinery on the ground.
Rahul Gandhi is expected to change many state chiefs and also appoint new general secretaries and in-charges of states.
By doing this, he would seek to send a message that the Congress was ready to shed its status quoist tag and take hard decisions as it prepares to fight the BJP in state assembly elections.