Senior Congress leader and West Bengal MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was on Tuesday named by the Congress as its leader in the Lok Sabha after Rahul Gandhi is understood to have declined to take charge of the post.
He will be replacing senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who served as the Leader of the Congress in the 16th Lok Sabha and lost the recent elections from Gulbarga in Karnataka.
Chowdhury, who will lead the the Congress which has 52 MPs, pips Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor and Kodikunnil Suresh, whose names were doing the rounds for the post of the Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha.
There was also speculation that Rahul Gandhi would take over as Leader of the Party in the House after his decision to quit as Congress President, which has been rejected by the Congress Working Commitee.
The nomination of Chowdhury, a fifth term member from Berhampore in West Bengal, by Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi at its meeting here earlier in the day at the residence of Sonia Gandhi, which was attended by Congress top brass including party chief Rahul Gandhi.
With only 52 MPs, the Congress, which is the main opposition, is unlikely to get the status of Leader of the Opposition if the norms applied by the then Speaker in the last Lok Sabha, are still followed. A party needs at least 10 per cent--55 seats-- of the total strength of the house of 545 members, if it has to get the Leader of the Opposition status.
A former President of the West Bengal Congress, Chowdhury has the reputation of being a "fighter" and maintains a tough political line against the ruling Trinamool Congress in the state, notwithstanding the fact that at the national level, the Congress keeps its channels open with her.
Reacting to the appointment, Chowdhury thanked the party for giving him the responsibility and said he would lead from the front in the Lok Sabha.
"I have been given this responsibility, I was asked to stand in the front. I said okay. I am a foot soldier and foot soldiers stand in front. So I will fight as a foot soldier for the party," he told ANI here.
Chowdhury is a former Minister of State (MoS) in the Railway Ministry in the UPA-II government.
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