New Delhi: Just days ahead of the monsoon session, the Congress party is reworking its parliamentary strategy and is likely to appoint a new deputy leader in the Lok Sabha.
The buzz within the party is that former parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath is likely to replace Captain Amarinder Singh, who will be stepping down to spend more time on the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab.
If effected, the move could potentially redraw equations between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. This is because Nath has a good rapport with the incoming parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar. Nath, a veteran Parliamentarian, recently stepped down from the post of general secretary in charge of Punjab after opposition parties criticized him over his alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
“Captain Amarinder Singh is too busy in Punjab and has very little time to focus on parliamentary strategy in the monsoon session. He is expected to resign before the start of the session. Simultaneously, the name of the new deputy leader of parliamentary party will be announced,” a senior party leader, aware of the developments, said requesting anonymity.
“Consultations are on because a lot of senior leaders are being considered. But a large section of the parliamentary party and top leadership is of the view that Kamal Nath can be a good choice because he has handled parliamentary affairs during the UPA’s (United Progressive Alliance) tenure and he has good equations with BJP leaders,” the leader added.
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs S.S. Ahluwalia, a former Congressman, too is well acquainted with Nath. The Congress and the BJP have been at loggerheads for the last two years and the showdown has forced a logjam in Parliament, including the passage of the constitutional amendment bill needed for the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Former Punjab chief minister, Singh is the Congress party’s face of the campaign for the assembly polls and has been spending most of his time in the state. He was appointed deputy leader of the Lok Sabha in 2014. He is currently running an active campaign in Punjab, particularly the “Halke Vich Captain” which requires him to make one-day visits to each of the 117 “halkas” or assembly constituencies.
Nath is a veteran party leader and nine-time Lok Sabha member who has served as a union minister in a number of portfolios including commerce and industry, environment, road transport, urban development and parliamentary affairs.
While he stepped down as Punjab in charge, he continues to be the general secretary in charge of Haryana.
“There are a couple of people in the race for the post. Seniority wise, Kamal Nath is a good choice and a go-getter. He is of the same political generation as several senior ministers in the NDA (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) and shares a good rapport with them. He is also a former union minister and hence is well aware of the nitty-gritty of floor management,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, a New Delhi-based political analyst. “The only concern for the party would be the recent development in which he had to resign as Punjab incharge. Otherwise as far as parliament is concerned, Kamal Nath is a veteran leader, effective and resourceful.”