In what could be a major political decision, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi may replace senior Congress leader and Behrampur MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as the leader of the party in Lok Sabha, Indian Express reports.
According to the report, the Congress party is set to do a major overhaul in the party’s organisational structure ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament scheduled to be in July. Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi intends to lead the party inside the parliament herself or may appoint one of her deputies to the post in the next few weeks.
If true, Sonia Gandhi will return to lead the party in the lower house after 17 years, as she was the leader of the opposition during the NDA-1 government. After Narendra Modi became the PM in 2014, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge was appointed as the leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, and Adhir Ranjan Choudhury has been occupying the post since the Modi govt came back to power in 2019.
However, Punjab Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu was named the leader of Congress in Lok Sabha during the budget session, as Choudhury was leading the Congress party in the West Bengal assembly elections. The post of leader of opposition lying vacant as no opposition party has won the required number of seats in the house.
The report suggested that the Congress party is looking to work alongside other opposition parties to coordinate the campaign against the BJP and the Modi government in Parliament. Hence, Sonia Gandhi is looking for a leadership change in the Lok Sabha and might replace Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as the party’s leader ahead of the monsoon session. This movie is being said as the first of many changes the party will make in the coming days.
Chowdhury, who represents Baharampur in Lok Sabha, has been leading the Congress party’s attack on the floor of the lower house of parliament. However, some critics have pointed out his ineffectiveness as the Congress party’s Lok Sabha leader. In addition, Chowdhury was recently the face of the party’s campaign in West Bengal, where the Congress party lost humiliatingly despite joining hands with radical Islamists and left-wing parties.
Intriguingly, Chowdhury is also extremely loyal to the Gandhi family and had been at the forefront of tackling the rebellion within the Congress party, especially when the G-23 group of leaders stood against Gandhis. In fact, Chowdhury was one of the few leaders who stood behind the Gandhis when the 23 senior leaders had begun to conspire against the party leadership.
However, despite all these considerations, Sonia Gandhi is reportedly intending to sack him as the leader of Lok Sabha and is all set to appoint herself or one of her loyalists as the next leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha.
Adhir Ranjan to be removed to placate TMC
According to the Indian Express report, Sonia Gandhi wants to build bridges with the Trinamool Congress, which has been deteriorated since the recently held West Bengal Assembly elections. The Gandhi-Parivar understands that the Congress party alone cannot fight the BJP, which has a large public mandate and wants to create an informal coalition on the floor of the house against the Modi government and the BJP.
The Congress has, in fact, on more than one occasion thrown its weight behind Banerjee in her post-Assembly election verdict battle with the BJP. Adhir Chowdhury, who is the Congress party’s chief in West Bengal, was extremely critical of the Trinamool leadership during the assembly elections even though the Congress party had officially stayed away from commenting on either Mamata Banerjee or the TMC.
In fact, Congress has thrown its weight behind Mamata Banerjee for more than one occasion in her post-Assembly election verdict battle with the BJP. Hence, the decision to remove Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury from his post is being seen as Sonia Gandhi’s efforts to placate Mamata Banerjee.
The Gandhis are hoping for seamless floor coordination between the Congress party and the Trinamool Congress in Parliament. Chowdhury, who is critical of the West Bengal government, would be a political problem for the Gandhis. Hence, he might be replaced before the Parliament session begins.
Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress is also gearing up for a battle with the Modi government over the post-poll violence against opposition party cadres in West Bengal. Trinamool Congress may reach out to Congress and other opposition parties to approach the President demanding the recall of the West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who has been vocal against the atrocities unleashed by the Trinamool party cadres.
Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tewari also in the race for the post
If not Sonia Gandhi, senior party leaders loyal to the family may be appointed as the next Congress leader in the Lok Sabha. Among the frontrunners are Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor and Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari. Interestingly, both of them are signatories to the letter written to Sonia Gandhi by 23 senior leaders. However, these two Lok Sabha MPs have been far more loyal to the first family of the Congress than others, and there is a possibility that they could be given the mantle under Sonia Gandhi’s command.
It is also unclear whether Gandhi-scion and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi will be keen to lead the 52-member Congress side in Lok Sabha. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh wants Manish Tewari to take over as president of Punjab Congress. One has to see what major changes the Congress party will undergo in the coming days.