New Delhi: Forget the numbers. Take them head on. This seems to be the Congress party’s strategy in Parliament. Interestingly, the normally reticent Rahul Gandhi is taking the lead in attacking the government. He was seen almost in the well of the House protesting price rise, a scene that took even the treasury benches by surprise. Outside, he faced the media to trash the railway budget. Well, whatever he did during his long break seems to have done him a world of good. He looks more aggressive and certainly more involved.
The new found aggression of the party led to the adjournment of Lok Sabha twice, till noon and then till 2 pm before being adjourned for the day on Monday. Congress members led the protests against price rise and ensured that the House didn’t run smoothly till the government agreed to a debate on the issue.
The aggression was the same on Tuesday when Congress members huddled with their president Sonia Gandhi to decide on their strategy during the Budget session. “We have got an assurance from the Speaker that price rise will be discussed in the House,” said a senior leader on condition of anonymity. “The Congress president is very clear that we should keep the pressure on the new government till it can give satisfactory answers on how they plan to deal with inflation,” he confided.
When it came to the Rail Budget, staying with tradition, the Congress let the House run peacefully and it was only TMC that created a ruckus claiming West Bengal had deliberately not been given any new trains. The Congress was quick to cash in on the mood. “It is a hopeless budget, most Congress states have been ignored,” said Rahul Gandhi as he spoke about lack of vision as reporters jostled with one another to get his reaction.
On Monday, he had rushed to the well of the House with party members. It has served as a message to the rank and file in the party and given them a confidence boost. “There is a 14 percent hike in rail fares but there are no new trains, no passenger amenities and track renewal in the budget,” said Jyotiraditya Scindia, former Union minister and a close aide of Rahul. “This is a PPP budget. It’s like selling away a national asset rather than being able to run it on your own. Why have FDI if the fares are being increased?” he questioned the logic of the Modi government. Taking cue, Delhi Congress workers staged a “dharna” outside Union Railways Minister’s residence in Delhi on Tuesday afternoon.
The other issue over which the Congress is planning to launch an all-out offensive is that of the post of Leader of Opposition. Party strategists have already prepared their case. A letter with signatures of all UPA MPs has already been sent to the Speaker for consideration. Sonia Gandhi herself is leading from the front. “We are the single largest party. We had a pre-poll alliance with our allies. Hence, we are entitled to Leader of Opposition’s post,” she had said on Monday. Sources say that they will wait for some more time for the Speaker to take a call before deciding on their next course of action. A petition to the President is in the offing and the party is mulling legal options too.
Getting it is crucial to the Congress’s scheme of things as it gives them a foothold into the committees that appoint personnel to key positions. If they do not get that status, then they will not be a part of the panel that clears sensitive appointments of Lokpal and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) among others.
On the social media front, the party’s twitter handle @INCAchievements has also become more active. The tweets sent out from this handle mostly drive home the point how the new government is doing nothing new except taking credit for all the work done by the previous UPA regime. The hashtags #TheIndiaTheyInherited and #UPALegacy have been started by Congress supporters to take on the NaMo army on social media. Right from the Jammu-Katra rail link inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi last week to the revamp of the reservation facility and easier online tickets in the Rail Budget, these are the brain child of Congress governments during the 2004-2014 period, they say.
“The Congress president was keen to have the rail link project finished during UPA’s tenure and it did happen. The BJP can try to take credit for it, but everyone knows that the project was mooted and finished during Congress regime. It took nine years of hard labour to accomplish it,” says Randeep Singh Surjewala, national spokesperson for the Congress.
The Congress is unlikely to budge from its position of having the discussion on price rise in Lok Sabha under the adjournment motion while Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has accepted notices for discussion by various parties under Rule 193 in which voting is not required. The Opposition had lashed out at the government for its failure to rein in price rise after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s speech in Rajya Sabha on Monday. The tables have turned, but the issue remains the same. With the memory of adjournments during UPA-II still fresh in the minds of the Congress, it’s unlikely that they will let the Modi Government enjoy any sweet taste of victory.