Congress leaders of the Parliamentary Strategy Group (PSG) on Thursday asked party president Sonia Gandhi to clarify on the party’s stand on Agnipath recruitment policy in the wake of the contrasting stand taken by senior leader Manish Tewari, who is also a member of the strategy group.
The hour-long meeting, presided by Ms. Gandhi, met to identify the key issues that the Opposition would raise during the upcoming Monsoon session.
Apart from regular increase in cooking gas and commodity prices, Agnipath scheme, the falling value of the Rupee, unemployment, the prevailing economic situation in the country, bank privatisation and border hostilities were among issues that figured in the discussion.
Sources said both Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, raised the issue of differences within the party over Agnipath without mentioning Mr. Tewari’s name.
Mr. Kharge is said to have referred to the meeting of the Consultative Committee on Defence, during which Mr. Tewari didn’t sign a joint letter by Opposition members urging the Centre to withdraw the scheme.
While Mr. Tewari didn’t speak on Agnipath in the strategy meeting, Ms. Gandhi urged her colleagues to support the stand taken by the party.
While one of the leaders suggested that the party disrupt the proceedings over Agnipath, the Congress chief urged her colleagues to raise people’s issues and coordinate with other parties.
“We have decided to give priority to issues like rise in prices of LPG and essential items that affect the common people. We will also raise the issue of Agnipath scheme,” Mr. Kharge told reporters after the meeting.
The Congress party will also seek answers from the government on the demands of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha that spearheaded the agitation against the now-scrapped farm laws, and the setting up of a committee on Minimum Support Price.
Mr. Tewari also raised the issue of deteriorating law and order in Punjab.
Apart from Mr. Kharge, Mr. Chowdhury and Mr. Tewari, other leaders who attended the meeting included P. Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh, K. Suresh and Manickam Tagore.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi didn’t attend the meeting as he is abroad on a personal visit.
The Monsoon session of Parliament will begin on July 18 and continue till August 12.