Will Lok Sabha leader be real Number two?



With the Congress expected to name the new leader of the House in the Lok Sabha in the immediate future, speculation has already started as to whether the selected person would be the real number two in the government. The position of the leader of the House in the Lok Sabha is very crucial and most of our Prime Ministers have held this position by virtue of their being heads of government. Dr. Manmohan Singh is the longest serving Prime Minister who has never been a member of the Lok Sabha but is heading the government while being leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha.

The Lok Sabha leader’s post fell vacant after Pranab Mukherjee was elevated as the President. Now with Parliament reopening for the Monsoon session next week, the Congress has to come up with the name of the new leader. Many believe that this post may go to Sushilkumar Shinde who has been given the important home ministry in the re-allocation of work announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday. Shinde has been the Maharashtra chief minister as also the governor of Andhra Pradesh. He has served both the party and the government (State and Central) in key positions and was the Congress nominee against Bhairon Singh Shekhawat for the post of vice president during the NDA regime. He is a Dalit leader and the reason for his getting the Home portfolio could have been that the Congress wishes to regain its Dalit vote bank. His elevation also to a point neutralizes the top Maratha leader Sharad Pawar who is considered in Maharashtra’s political circles as his original mentor. But much water has flowed in the Ganga and Shinde has emerged not only as a leader in his own right but also someone close to the Gandhi family. His name was under active consideration when the party was deciding on its President and vice presidential candidates.

However, Delhi’s political class has always expected P Chidambaram to be the leader of the House in the Lok Sabha. Chidambaram is considered the natural choice after Pranab’s exit but with the BJP boycotting him in the past, the Congress will have to take a very calculated decision if it goes ahead and makes him the leader. In Chidambaram’s favour is his ability to articulate very well and of course his wide experience.

Some in the party had felt that S Jaipal Reddy could have been a good choice for the post given his good rapport with both colleagues and opponents. But what stands in his way his past association with the Janata Dal, which does not go down too well with the Congress rank and file.

Kamal Nath could have been a very good choice for the post as well with his grasp of the functioning of Parliament and the government. Kamal Nath is an eight time MP from Chindwara in Madhya Pradesh and in terms of number of terms in Parliament is way ahead of most of the UPA colleagues. He is also very political and quick witted.

But Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister will take the final call on the subject and even though AK Antony and Sharad Pawar may be designated as joint number two, whoever is made the leader of the Lok Sabha will also be in contention.

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