Fly on the wall: Lobbying intensifies in Congress for Leader of Opposition post

Congress leaders Mallikarjuna Kharge, Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh are in the race to become the next Leader of Opposition.

Mallikarjuna Kharge, Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh (Picture courtesy: ANI)

With the term of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad scheduled to end on February 22, 2021, lobbying has intensified within the Congress party members for this powerful post.

The Rajya Sabha MP who is designated as LOP will be entitled to the perks of a cabinet minister and his or her status within the party will also rise.

If sources are to be believed, Karnataka Cong leader Mallikarjuna Kharge is the frontrunner since he also has the confidence of the Gandhi family. Kharge has been vocal for Congress’ and has been seen opposing the contentious farm laws. He rubbished government claims about doubling farmer’s income and increasing the minimum support price for crops to benefit farmers. Even during the Budget speech on February 1, Kharge called the Budget a scheme for capitalists and termed it as ‘Jumla’ or rhetoric. Kharge has sparked off a major row between Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress after his ‘khoon ki kheti’ jibe in Rajya Sabha.

Another name in the reckoning is the Deputy leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma, however, he is no longer in the good books of the Congress’ first family. Sharma is one among the group of Congress leaders who wrote the infamous letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi seeking an organisational overhaul. In recent times too, some of his statements have been pro-government and there were rumors about him cozying up to the rival camp BJP.

Another candidate who may also be fancying his chances is former union minister Jairam Ramesh. The senior party leader Ramesh last month questioned Government’s reluctance to suspend farm laws. He asked why the government is not allowing a Parliamentary Committee to examine the farm laws if PM Narendra Modi is willing to suspend it for 18 months.  Ramesh took up the arrest of Mandeep Punia, a freelance journalist, and attacked the government saying that they want to silence the voices of people who are reporting the ‘truth’ about the farm laws.

With the current term of LOP coming to an end this month, it will be Sonia and the party members who will take the final call in the matter.