Just a day before the start of the monsoon session of Parliament, on Monday, July 19, Congress president Sonia Gandhi made a major reshuffle of the party’s parliamentary groups, giving key positions to select ‘dissenters’.
Senior leaders such as P Chidambaram, Ambika Soni, Manish Tewari and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh have been given key slots. A New18 report said some of the G-23 leaders — who wrote an explosive dissent letter last year against the party leadership — have now been made part of a seven-member group in the Lok Sabha. These include Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary, Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tiwari.
West Bengal MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury will remain the Leader of the Party (LoP) in the Lok Sabha, contrary to speculation that he would be replaced. Gaurav Gogoi , son of late Assam CM Tarun Gogoi, remains the deputy leader.
“As the chairperson of the CPP (Congress Parliamentary Party), I have decided to reconstitute the following groups to facilitate and ensure the effective functioning of our party in both Houses of Parliament,” wrote Sonia. “These groups will meet daily during the session and can meet during the intersession periods as well where Parliament issues are concerned.”
The News18 report said K Suresh is retaining his position as chief whip in the Lok Sabha. Ravneet Singh Bittu and Manickam Tagore also remain party whips in the revamped Lok Sabha group.
A Hindustan Times report noted that the inclusion of Tewari and Tharoor in the group indicates the Congress chief wants more heads in the party’s decision-making process in Parliament.
The report further said the Rajya Sabha hierarchy, will now include senior party leaders and parliamentarians Chidambaram, Soni and Singh. They will join Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma (deputy leader) and Jairam Ramesh (chief whip) in the group. Kharge will be the convener of joint meetings of the groups.
The groups are tasked with deciding on important floor issues such as to what extent the party will cooperate with the government, and whether or not it will support a new bill. It will also canvass for support in the Houses, coordinating with other political parties.
The two earlier Parliament sessions were curtailed due to the pandemic, and the one that begins tomorrow is likely to be held in full. The Opposition is all set to question the government on key issues such as the state of the economy, the handling of the COVID crisis and the pace of the vaccination programme.