Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Despite a strong demand for Rahul Gandhi to head the Congress in the Parliament, the party on Monday declared that former railways minister Mallikarjun Kharge would be its leader in the Lok Sabha.
Confirming the reports, senior Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi said, "Mallikarjun Kharge will be the leader of Congress in Lok Sabha."
The 72-year-old dalit leader from Karnataka, a second term MP, pipped senior-most member of the Lok Sabha Kamal Nath, who was recently elected from Chindwara constituency for a ninth term.
In the best traditions of Congress party, the appointment of Kharge, not known for articulation, was made by the party President Sonia Gandhi despite calls from within that either she or Rahul should be leading the badgered party in the Lok Sabha, where it has been reduced to a mere 44-member group.
There is a good chance that Kharge may end up as Leader of the Opposition in the House should the Speaker, yet to be elected, choose to give the post to the Congress although it has less than 10 per cent of the total membership of the House, 545.
The Indian Youth Congress (IYC) had earlier raised voices in favour of party scion Rahul Gandhi taking up the role.
IYC chief Rajeev Satav had said in a tweet, "Youth Congress leaders want Rahulji should be Leader of Opposition. Demand raised before leadership at Youth Congress meeting."
Satav said that Gandhi had assured them that he would be with them through thick and thin.
But the IYC said that Gandhi had not responded to the demand for him to be Leader of Opposition.
In a meeting with Rahul Gandhi, the IYC members had told him that they would back him the way they had backed former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during her difficult days.
The meeting saw Gandhi asking the youth body to be battle-ready even as he promised widespread changes in Congress.
"Rahulji urges youth Congress leaders to be ready for struggle. He addressed Youth Congress at Constitution Club, New Delhi," Satav said in another tweet after the nearly three-hour-long meeting.
Assembly elections are due in Delhi, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana later this year. Gandhi also told the gathering that the party would see greater representation of the youth and discussed the reasons that led to Congress ending up with its worst-ever tally of 44 MPs in Lok Sabha.
A number of Congress general secretaries had been pitching for Gandhi to become the Leader of Opposition saying that since the Lok Sabha polls had seen the Congress Vice President being pitted as the party`s face against BJP`s Narendra Modi, it was but natural for him to lead when the chips were down.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi had remained quiet over the post of Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha. The names doing the rounds included Kamal Nath, who was elected for his ninth term this year, and Veerappa Moily, a former Union and chief minister.
With Agency Inputs