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Sonia Gandhi reconstitutes Congress' parliamentary hierarchy

Sonia Gandhi reconstitutes Congress parliamentary hierarchy
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In a major reshuffle in the Congress party's parliamentary hierarchy, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has reconstituted the parliamentary groups in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, bringing in senior faces such as former Union ministers P Chidambaram, Manish Tewari, Ambika Soni and former chief minister Digvijay Singh.

Gandhi, in a letter said, "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. These groups will meet daily during the session and can meet during the inter-session periods as well where Parliament issues are concerned."

The letter makes it official that Bengal MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury will continue as the Leader of the Party (LoP) in the Lok Sabha. But inclusion of Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor in the group underlines that Gandhi wants more heads in the party's parliamentary decision-making process. Interestingly, both Tewari and Tharoor were perceived as a possible replacements for Chowdhury.

The two leaders have joined Chowdhury, Gaurav Gogoi (deputy leader), K Suresh (chief whip), Ravneet Singh Bittu and Manickam Tagore (both whips).

The Rajya Sabha hierarchy, which earlier had Mallikarjun Kharge as the Leader of the Opposition, Anand Sharma (deputy leader) and Jairam Ramesh (chief whip), will now include Chidambaram, Soni and Singh—the three senior leaders with years of experience in parliament as well as the party.

The latest reshuffle in the parliamentary teams come just a day before the monsoon session of Parliament starts on Monday. After two curtailed session, this one holds promise to be a full session. It is also likely to be stormy as the Opposition wants to corner the government on economy, vaccination strategy, job loss and farm issues.

The groups will have various roles. Mustering numbers, coordinating with various political parties and deciding on key floor issues such as support for a bill or the extent of cooperation with the government. It will also decide which issue needs to be raised and how the Congress will manoeuvre on issues raised by other parties.

Only last week, the Congress had entrusted LoP Mallikarjun Kharge with coordination with other parties in Parliament. Kharge, a former Union minister, is expected to play the key role in Parliament as the lack of Opposition unity has proved to be an advantage for the ruling dispensation in passing key bills such as on Triple Talaq, bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir as union territories and the scrapping of Article 370.

The groups with senior, more accessible leaders also come when the Opposition camp has seen signs of fissures with a few regional parties trying to carve out their independent spaces keeping in mind the upcoming state elections and the larger goal of 2024 national poll.

The Congress already has two panels—the parliamentary strategy group headed by Gandhi to look into the larger issues relating to parliamentary functioning and a smaller group headed by P Chidambaram to carefully scrutinize all government bills.

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