Under fire, Congress gears up to defend Rahul Gandhi in Parliament

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge calls meeting of like-minded parties ahead of the budget session today; However, other Opposition parties don’t see the issue as common cause

Updated - March 13, 2023 12:51 pm IST

Published - March 12, 2023 08:14 pm IST - New Delhi

Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar chairs an all-party meeting ahead of the second part of the Budget Session at the VP House in New Delhi on March 12, 2023.

Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar chairs an all-party meeting ahead of the second part of the Budget Session at the VP House in New Delhi on March 12, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

With former Congress president Rahul Gandhi under attack in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha for his comments made inside and outside of the House, the Congress is preparing for a confrontation with the BJP in the second part of the Budget session that opens on Monday. But with this being the top agenda, the other Opposition parties are reluctant to be part of the campaign.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has called a meeting of “like-minded” Opposition parties on Monday morning, before the session begins. Two parties –the Trinamool Congress and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi – are likely to skip the meeting.

In the Lok Sabha Privileges Committee, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey has asked for termination of Mr. Gandhi’s membership for making “defamatory comments” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also for “challenging” the authority of Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

While, in the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar has objected to his comments made abroad “denigrating” Parliament. Facing attack from both ends, the Congress is bracing itself for a duel, but might not find all other Opposition parties on board.

A Trinamool Congress leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said his party would decide its own strategy and it need not be dictated by the Congress. Last week, BRS leader K. Kavitha had said that the Congress was no longer a national force and if it wanted to defeat the BJP, it should be a team player working with the regional parties.

On Sunday evening, Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar met the floor leaders of all parties in the Upper House at his residence in Delhi ahead of the second part of the budget session. He spoke at length advising the gathering against “disruptions” being used a parliamentary tool.

During the meeting, CPI Rajya Sabha leader Binoy Viswam, according to sources, said that in Parliament there could be different perspectives and each of them should be reflected in the debate. “We expect the chair to not be an active participant of any side,” he said. To this, Mr. Dhankhar, as per sources retorted, “Not only chair, I am a cheerleader!” The comment was directed at Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh’s statement against Mr. Dhankhar. Mr. Ramesh had said that certain offices need to be above partisan politics and “cannot be a cheerleader for any ruling dispensation”. He had released the statement in response to Mr. Dhankhar’s earlier remark that comments by a Member of Parliament “tarnishing India’s image on foreign soil,” could not be condoned.

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