Congress plans joint opposition candidate for Rajya Sabha post | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Congress plans joint opposition candidate for Rajya Sabha post

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Sep 09, 2020 02:47 AM IST

The decision was taken at a meeting of the parliament strategy group of the Congress on Tuesday, a party leader said on condition of anonymity.

The Congress decided on Tuesday to work to field a joint opposition candidate for the post of the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson in a bid to present a united front against the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament beginning on September 14, people familiar with the development said on Tuesday.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi.(PTI)
Congress president Sonia Gandhi.(PTI)

The decision was taken at a meeting of the parliament strategy group of the Congress on Tuesday, a party leader said on condition of anonymity.

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The meeting was otherwise dominated by the India-China military standoff on the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. The Congress decided to corner the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government on the issue in parliament, but in a “nuanced” way, given that Indian forces are eyeball-to-eyeball with Chinese troops along the LAC, the leader cited above said.

The meeting was attended by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, his deputy Anand Sharma, party leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury,, his deputy Gaurav Gogoi, and senior leaders AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge, Jairam Ramesh, KC Venugopal, Manish Tewari, K Suresh, Manickam Tagore and Ravneet Singh Bittu.

The Congress leader cited above said Tewari pitched for a nuanced approach on the military standoff with China following the June 15 skirmish in the Galwan valley in which 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese were killed.

Tewari also noted nationalistic fervour on the issue and said the Congress needs to be careful how it articulates its position. At the same time, while keeping popular perception in mind, he said it was important to expose the government because there was absolutely no doubt that it had bungled on the China issue.

Tewari said that his concern was not what the people will say but what a soldier standing on the borders and guarding the country 24x7 putting his life at stake, will feel at a time when the country is facing the biggest challenge from China since the 1962 war.

“Are we going to dampen the morale of the soldiers at a time when they are standing eyeball-to-eyeball with Chinese troops,” he asked.

At this point, Rahul Gandhi intervened and agreed with Tewari, said another leader present in the meeting, requesting anonymity. “We need to calibrate our stand,” the leader quoted Rahul Gandhi as saying at the meeting.

Venugopal also said the Congress should be vocal in its criticism of China, which he described as the invader and the aggressor.

Sharma too echoed Tewari’s views. He said the party should be careful not to demoralise the armed forces given that extensive mobilisation is taking place along the borders and the country faces a situation that is unprecedented since 1962.

But some leaders such as Tagore and Bittu said patriotism needs transparency and telling the truth and the Congress should keep up its attack on the government on the issue. Chowdhury said the Congress should demand a white paper from the government on the Ladakh situation.

At the outset, Azad listed the issues to be raised in the monsoon session. He said the election to the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson’s post was coming up and all opposition parties should collectively contest it. His views were endorsed by Patel.

The Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson’s post is vacant after Janata Dal (United) MP Harivansh retired in April this year. He was re-elected to the Upper House from Bihar soon after and is expected to be the NDA candidate yet again.

In August 2018, after the retirement of PJ Kurien of the Congress, Harivansh was elected as the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson. As the NDA candidate, he defeated BK Hariprasad of the Congress. Harivansh secured 125 votes to 105 for Hariprasad. The election to the post is scheduled to be held on the first day of the monsoon session on September 14. The last date for filing nominations is September 11.

The Congress is likely to approach the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for the post, and has authorised Azad to speak to other parties on the issue and finalise a candidate.

The post of deputy speaker of the Lower House is also vacant since the 17th Lok Sabha was constituted in May last year.

The party will also flag the Covid-19 situation across the country, the impact of lockdowns, the current state of the economy, decline in gross domestic product growth, Good and Services Tax (GST) compensation to states, job losses, agrarian distress, restoration of the Question Hour and Facebook’s alleged nexus with the ruling BJP. It will also seek a discussion on the PM CARES Fund set up in March to provide relief to those affected by Covid-19.

Rahul Gandhi said the party should aggressively raise the Covid-19 issue, given that the situation is grim . He said accountability for the deteriorating situation should be fixed.

Ramesh briefed the meeting about the 11 ordinances the government is expected to bring in the session and said the Congress will oppose four of them, including the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 and the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020.

Tewari said the party should not oppose the ordinance on the Insolvency and Banking Code (IBC), given that the economy is in a bad shape. “It is a good ordinance and suspends the rigour of the Act,” the second leader quoted him as saying at the meeting.

Tewari said the Congress should move adjournment motions to find out “who stands where” on these issues.

The meeting also decided to firm up a joint strategy with other like-minded opposition parties.

Some key opposition leaders like Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Shiv Sena chief and Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader and Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren have already stated that they will work closely with each other to take on the government in Parliament.

The leaders expressed their views at a recent meeting of non-NDA chief ministers called by Sonia Gandhi. A meeting of opposition parties is expected to be held later this week.

This was also the first time that three – Azad, Sharma and Tewari -- of the 23 signatories to a letter to the party president seeking a complete overhaul of the organisation came face-to-face with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi after the stormy Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on August 24.

Four out of the 23 signatories who are CWC members – Azad, Sharma, Mukul Wasnik and Jitin Prasada – had come under intense fire from other colleagues at the meeting for writing the letter.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Sonia Gandhi is likely to leave for an overseas trip for a routine health check-up and will not be able to attend the full monsoon session of Parliament.

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