How Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi made Congress battle ready for next 5 years | Latest News India

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By Mahtab Ahmad

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) chief Sonia Gandhi on Saturday addressed party workers at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) showcasing the unity in the aftermath of a closely contested Lok Sabha polls.

Both leaders spoke about the revival of the party. (ANI photo)
Both leaders spoke about the revival of the party. (ANI photo)

Both leaders, who have witnessed the downward trajectory of the party in the last decade, spoke about the revival of the party even as the outfit stares at staying out of power for 15 years, or three full Lok Sabha terms. While Kharge spoke about the importance of the unity of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) allies in the Opposition benches and review in states where the party has not performed well in the polls, Sonia Gandhi issued a clear warning to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on the functioning of Parliament.

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Rejection of Modi’s leadership

Sonia emphasised that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his allies have “suffered political and moral defeat” in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

In her first verbal attack on Narendra Modi after the elections and a day before his oath-taking as the next PM, Sonia told the meeting of the CPP that, “The Prime Minister who sought the mandate solely in his name to the exclusion of both his party and its allies has suffered a political and moral defeat. In reality, he has lost the mandate he sought and thereby lost the right to leadership as well. Yet, far from taking 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 cognizance of the will of the people.”

Kharge too, maintained that in the recently concluded Lok Sabha election, “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. Its rejection of the politics of divisiveness, hate and polarization.”

But why do the Congress’ top leaders refuse to give the political legitimacy to Modi 3.0?

After all, the Modi-led BJP emerged as the largest party in this election and the NDA alliance has bagged a comfortable majority in the Lower House. And as Modi pointed out, the Congress has not got as many numbers in the last three elections put together as the BJP got in this term.

By taking away the political legitimacy, the Congress has been preparing the warpath against the Modi government in the last five years and keeping the organisation and the MPs battle-ready.

“It’s perhaps the only way to keep morale high in another defeat. But what the party is now looking at is the series of assembly elections that are coming up in the next two years. Most importantly, the elections in Maharashtra and Bihar are due in the coming months and it would be an acid test for the INDIA bloc alliance,” said a senior Congress strategist.

Sonia claims govt’s writ won’t run in Parliament

The Opposition’s space, undoubtedly, has shrunk in Parliament in the last ten years. The Opposition has lost chairmanship of standing committees, major bills have been passed without debates or sent to committees that are not headed by Opposition leaders for reviews. The Opposition voice was subdued by the numerical majority of the NDA in the past ten years.

This time, with 234 MPs, the Opposition is emboldened.

At the CPP meeting, Sonia Gandhi declared that “No longer can and should Parliament be bulldozed like it has been for a decade now” and “No longer will the writ of the ruling establishment be permitted to disrupt Parliament, whimsically mistreat members or push through legislation without due and proper consideration and debate”.

“No longer can and should Parliamentary Committees be ignored or bypassed or stifled as it has been over the past ten years,” she added.

Gandhi also got re-elected as the CPP chief for another five years even as the CWC asked her son, former party chief Rahul Gandhi to take the leader of Opposition’s post in the new Lok Sabha.

If Gandhi indeed becomes the LoP, the negotiations between the government and the Opposition in running the House, selecting heads of various institutions such as CVC, CBI or election commissioners, might hit a roadblock.

Sonia also reminded the new team of the Congress lawmakers of their duties amid signs of heightened confrontation between the government and the Opposition in the 18th Lok Sabha.

“In this election the people have voted decisively to reject the politics of divisiveness and authoritarianism. They have voted to strengthen parliamentary politics and safeguard our Constitution. They have voted for the agenda of economic and social justice. That indeed should continue to be our objective and guide,” she said, asking her colleagues to be “watchful, vigilant and proactive in holding Modi and his new NDA government accountable.”

She also reminded that the Congress party has challenging times ahead as it has to “prevent any attempts to increase polarization and erosion of secular and democratic values enshrined in our Constitution by the ruling cabal”.

She argued that “This is a renewed opportunity for us as a Party that established parliamentary democracy in our country to bring parliamentary politics back on track to where they legitimately belong.”

Kharge harps on unity of alliance

The INDIA alliance, a group that has 234 lawmakers in the Lok Sabha, must function “cohesively and collectively both in parliament and outside”, Kharge said at the meeting of the extended CWC on Saturday as he also emphasised that “People have reposed their faith back in us (the Congress) in substantial measures and we must build on it.”

The Congress president, who played a key role to form the INDIA alliance, said, “I will be failing in my duty if I don’t acknowledge the INDIA Alliance partners, in which each party played its designated role in different states, each party contributed to the other. Our determination is that the INDIA group must continue. We must function cohesively and collectively both in parliament and outside.”

Even as the Congress party has improved its tally substantially from 52 in the last Lok Sabha to 99 in the 18th Lok Sabha, it accounts for less than 50% of the INDIA bloc’s numbers in the Lower House. And with temperamental allies such as Trinamool Congress (TMC) or Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Kharge, who has over 50 years of politics behind him, knows unity is key.

Later, Rahul said, “Our resolve to raise the voice of the people of India in Parliament with full force and to hold the government accountable at every step is strong.”

In his speech, Kharge showered praises on Sonia and added that “In the last 10 years, the rights of the opposition in Parliament were constantly limited. Be it asking questions, asking for time for discussion, sending bills to committees, drawing the attention of the government to burning issues, BJP created obstacles at every step.”

“Modiji does not want the opposition to raise public issues in the House. He considers it an insult to answer the opposition’s questions. When Modiji was touching the Constitution with his forehead yesterday, he forgot how he had violated constitutional traditions in the last ten years. He has weakened Parliament and constitutional institutions. He has insulted them,” Kharge alleged.

The Congress president also asked the MPs to “constantly pay attention to their problems and difficulties of people and keep raising issues related to your area in the Parliament.”

Kharge added that out of power, the alliance must find ways to stick together.

The raging issues that were raised during the election campaign could possibly be a rallying point for the Opposition. That’s why, addressing the extended CWC attended by 120 of 139 members, Kharge possibly asked the party to continue to raise the issues highlighted during the Lok Sabha campaign.

“The issues that we raised in the election campaign are issues that are bothering the people of India. We have to continue to raise them both in parliament and outside,” he said, “Our determination is that the INDIA group must continue. We must function cohesively and collectively both in parliament and outside.”

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