Congress lawmaker Rahul Gandhi will be the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the party announced on Tuesday after a meeting with key INDIA bloc leaders, marking the first time in a decade that the Lower House will fill the position.

New Delhi, Jun 25 (ANI): Congress MP Rahul Gandhi takes oath as a Member of the 18th Lok Sabha during its second day, at the Parliament, in New Delhi on Tuesday. (ANI Photo/SansadTV)

The development came hours ahead of a showdown between the government and the Opposition over the election of the Speaker. As LoP, Gandhi will lead a strong and diverse Opposition group against the Modi government.

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“Congress parliamentary party chairperson (Sonia Gandhi) wrote to pro-tem speaker Bhartruhari Mahtab, informing him of the decision to appoint Rahul Gandhi as the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha,” party general secretary KC Venugopal announced after the meeting with allies, in which Gandhi was also present.

A larger section of the Opposition anticipated that Gandhi would take the Leader of the Opposition’s responsibilities after the Congress became eligible for the prestigious post for the first time in 10 years. In the 16th and 17th Lok Sabha, there was no Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha as the Congress didn’t have the 56 seats required to claim LoP status. The LoP is equivalent to a cabinet minister in status and perks.

Gandhi has already indicated, in the context of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test controversy, that the Opposition would be much stronger this time.

Interacting with young aspirants last week, Gandhi said the government was “going to get such pressure from the Opposition, that we will make sure that this issue is resolved. We are not going to allow this type of activities. Opposition is simply not going to allow this eyewash that is taking place.”

Gandhi assuming the LoP post will also mean that he has to sit with Prime Minister Narandra Modi to select key functionaries such as election commissioners, Central Bureau of Investigation director, Central Vigilance Commission chairperson, Chief Information Commissioner and the chairperson of National Human Rights Commission. All these posts are selected by a panel which includes the PM and the LoP. So far, Gandhi has never been in a panel with Modi.

Gandhi’s appointment as LoP also comes amid heightened acrimony between the NDA and an emboldened Opposition, which has 236 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

Gandhi is likely to participate in the debate on the Speaker’s election later this week.

Gandhi has been a member of the Lok Sabha since 2004 and in the recently concluded general elections, won Rae Bareli in UP and Wayanad in Kerala. He then retained Rae Bareli, the constituency long associated with the Gandhi family, and vacated Wayanad, where the Congress will field his sister and senior party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. If she wins, Priyanka Gandhi will join him in the Lok Sabha.

On June 8, the extended Congress Working Committee, the highest executive forum of the party, urged Gandhi to become the LoP in the Lok Sabha.

“In another resolution, the CWC unanimously requested Rahul Gandhi to take the LoP post in the Lok Sabha. All participants, in their view, were unanimous that Rahul Gandhi should become the LoP,” Congress general secretary KC Venugopal had said after the CWC meeting.