The Congress on Tuesday decided that the opposition should not let the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s post go uncontested and favoured putting up a joint candidate for which it will reach out to other parties, sources said. The decision was taken at the Congress Parliamentary strategy group meeting chaired by party chief Sonia Gandhi that also resolved to strongly take up the issue of Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control during the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament, they said.
The sources said the party may offer the deputy chairman’s post to its ally DMK, and Tiruchi Siva is among the candidates being considered. In case the DMK does not contest, the Congress will field its own candidate as it does not want the post to go uncontested. According to a notification from Rajya Sabha Secretariat, the election of the deputy chairman has been fixed for September 14, when the session will commence.
Notices of motions for election to the deputy chairman’s post would be received by Rajya Sabha till noon on September 11, it said. Harivansh is likely to be fielded as the NDA nominee again for the post which had fallen vacant after his term ended.
He has since been re-elected to the Upper House as a member from Bihar. The Congress had contested the post by fielding BK Hariprasad in August 2018 when Harivansh won. The NDA has since then further improved its position in the House, though it is still short of majority. The strategy group meeting was attended by party leaders from both the houses including Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
Senior party leaders Ahmed Patel and Mallikarjun Kharge, besides Congress deputy leaders in both houses, Anand Sharma and Gaurav Gogoi, and chief whips Jairam Ramesh and K Suresh, party’s whips in Lok Sabha, Manickam Tagore and Ravneet Bittu, attended the virtual meeting. This was the first time that some of the letter-writers, Azad, Sharma and Manish Tewari, who had demanded an overhaul of the party, came face to face with the Congress leadership after the recent stormy CWC meeting.
The party will raise in both the houses the issue of Chinese aggression at the border and the current situation there, the sources said, adding a wide ranging discussion was held on the issue during the meeting. The sources claimed some members including Sharma and Tewari said that the party should not come across as “not being nationalist", and its position on the issue should not lower the morale of the soldiers.
Rahul Gandhi, however, said the issue will be raised strongly but the party should calibrate its position on the issue, the sources said. Senior party leader Ahmed Patel pointed to articles written by some leaders, saying it should be avoided as an individual’s stand does not reflect the party’s position on the issue.
Former PM Singh said that the Congress should demand a white paper on China, COVID and unemployment issues, the sources said. The Congress will also demand a discussion on the state of the economy after the GDP growth numbers for the last quarter contracted by 23.9 per cent. The issue of the failure of the central government to pay GST compensation to states will also be taken up for discussion.
The Congress strategy group decided to raise the issue of restoration of the Question Hour in both houses during the session. The issue would be taken up in the meeting of the Business Advisory Committee in both houses. The Congress also decided to raise in Parliament the issue of the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the wake of the rise in the daily number of cases and India taking the second spot in total cases in the world, besides the effect of lockdown.
The Congress is also set to strongly oppose a number of ordinances that the government has brought, including those on granting exemption to PM Cares Fund on tax, two farm ordinances and one each on essential commodities and banking regulations. It will, however, be supportive in some ordinances. The proposed environment impact assessment (EIA) report will also be raised during the upcoming session.
The meeting started with an address by Sonia Gandhi who sought the suggestion of leaders on the issues to be taken up during the upcoming session. The Congress is planning to launch an offensive against the government by evolving a joint opposition strategy in this regard. A meeting with leaders of other opposition parties is on the cards in this regard, the sources said.