New Delhi: Congress party president Sonia Gandhi has formed a 20-member political panel to devise the party’s strategy in Parliament and to push its agenda in coordination with other opposition parties.

At a high-level meeting on Monday evening, senior party leaders, many of whom are disappointed at Rahul Gandhi’s unwillingness to take the lead on several issues, asked him to assume a more active role in Parliament and get the entire opposition together on certain issues.

Senior party leader Kamal Nath said the Congress needs to take a stronger and united stand on issues, according to a party leader who was part of the Congress parliamentary secretariat meeting on Monday and Tuesday’s political committee meeting.

“He (Nath) said there are many issues on which parties like AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and BJD (Biju Janata Dal), which have adopted a softer stance to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, disagree with the government. The Congress should be able to unite the entire opposition on such issues and take the lead in opposing controversial decisions," the leader said.

“However, Rahul was silent in the meeting," he added.

The 20-member committee, comprising members from Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, is set to meet every Tuesday and Thursday when Parliament is in session.

At Tuesday’s meeting, party leaders, including leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, senior leaders A.K. Antony and Anand Sharma, apart from Congress parliamentary party office bearers, discussed ways to push the party’s demand for the post of leader of opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress, which faced a humiliating rout in the April-May Lok Sabha elections, has been reduced to 44 seats from its tally of 206 in the previous 15th Lok Sabha.

Although Rahul Gandhi, who led the party’s poll campaign, was expected to take over as Congress legislative party leader in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge was finally appointed, after Rahul Gandhi apparently refused.

The Congress has been pushing hard to get LoP post in Lok Sabha on the basis of being the largest opposition party. The Congress president had written to speaker Sumitra Mahajan, and Kharge led a delegation of United Progressive Alliance lawmakers to stake claim for the post. However, the BJP maintained the Congress does not have the required 10% of total seats in Lok Sabha to claim the post. The Speaker has to take a final call.

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