Congress won’t stake claim for LoP in Lok Sabha

New Delhi: The Congress on Saturday said that it will not formally stake claim for the post of Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha as it is two seats short of the required number of 54.

The party also said that Rahul Gandhi will continue to be the Congress President.

According to the rules, a party needs to have 10 per cent of 545 members, the total strength of the Lok Sabha, to qualify for the post of Leader of Opposition, which is a Cabinet-rank position. But the Congress has got only 52 members in the Lower House, two short of the required numbers.

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters here, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: “We will not stake claim for the post of LoP in the Lok Sabha as we are two short of the 54 members required for the status. However, the onus also lies with the government… whether it wants to designate a party formally as the principal opposition.”

Even in the previous Lok Sabha, the leader of Congress in the House, Mallikarjun Kharge, was not granted the status of Leader of Opposition as the party had won only 44 seats in the 2014 general elections.

When asked if the party was looking at a merger with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Surjewala said that he had no information about any such merger between the two parties.

When asked if the Congress could stake claim for the LoP status as an Opposition block along with other opposition parties, he said, “The newly-elected Parliamentary party will decide the party’s strategy.”

The Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) met earlier in the day for the first time after the Lok Sabha elections where UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was elected the leader of the Congress parliamentarians.

However, the suspense over the post of leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha continues. The party has authorised Sonia Gandhi to take a decision on this matter.

When asked if Rahul Gandhi was still insisting to step down from the post of Congress President, Surjewala said: “Rahul Gandhi continues to be the Congress President. The naysayers will say what they have to. The media has to wait rather than trying to jump to any conclusion. The Congress Working Committee (CWC) has urged him (Rahul Gandhi) to continue as the party President.”

When asked about nationalism and other important issues which were used by the BJP to consolidate support ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Surjewala pointed fingers at Doklam, where Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a two-month standoff in 2017.

“Even today Chinese army is deployed in Doklam just 10 metres from the Indian post where a road has been constructed. It is a diplomatic failure on the part of the Indian government,” he said.