Sonia Gandhi to retire, may pave way for Priyanka’s electoral debut in 2019

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The first day of the winter session was marked by Opposition protests and adjournments in the Rajya Sabha, while the Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day after obituary references. The story of the day, however, was Congress President Sonia Gandhi stating that she was set to retire. Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi will officially take over the reins of the Congress party on Saturday.

For several months now, Congress workers in Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha constituency that Sonia Gandhi has represented since 2004, have spoken about the electoral debut of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from the seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha. A Congress party official Facebook page, ‘Amethi Rae Bareli ki Kahani’, or the story of Amethi and Rae Bareli, has its profile photograph of Priyanka Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi, who is the Member of Parliament from Amethi.

Priyanka Gandhi has managed her mother’s seat for the last several years, and campaigns during elections in only Amethi and Rae Bareli constituencies. Some in the party also expect Varun Gandhi to quit the BJP to join the Congress. Varun Gandhi is an MP from UP’s Sultanpur but has increasingly felt suffocated within the BJP. However, his mother Maneka Gandhi is a cabinet minister.

However, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said Sonia Gandhi has retired as the president of the Congress party and not from politics. “Her blessings, wisdom and innate commitment to the Congress ideology shall always be our guiding light,” he said.

The winter session, which started on Friday and ends on January 5, is set to be one of the shortest in recent years. The government had advanced the date for holding of the winter session in view of the Gujarat assembly polls. At a mere 14 sittings and in the midst of the holiday season, it is unlikely to transact any substantive legislative work.

Much of the legislative work is likely to spill over to the Budget session, which is the longest of the three sessions of Parliament, and is scheduled to begin in end January. It is also going to be the session where the Narendra Modi government presents its fifth and final Budget before the next Lok Sabha elections.

The government has lined up 14 new Bills and 25 pending Bills that it plans to table during the session, but the Opposition is also likely to be more vociferous than usual in raising issues that it deems of public importance. The Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh results will also have an implication on the winter session.

The Congress and the other Opposition parties on Friday disrupted Rajya Sabha proceedings to demand a discussion on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation of Pakistan influencing the Gujarat election results, and that former prime minister Manmohan Singh was part of a dinner hosted by suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar where Gujarat elections were discussed. They also protested the disqualification of former Janata Dal (United) members Sharad Yadav and Ali Anwar.

Of the Bills to be tabled, the government plans to introduce a Bill providing Muslim women the right to seek maintenance in case of triple talaq. Other key Bills likely to come up, include a Bill to give constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Castes, rights of Transgender Persons and the controversial Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill. Another key pending bill is the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, which is currently with a parliamentary committee.

The Opposition will raise issues related to demonetisation, goods and services tax (GST), economic slowdown, Aadhaar, issues related to federalism and the recent controversies involving the Election Commission. The Opposition will also demand answers from the government on alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal and the alleged irregularities in the business dealings of BJP chief Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah.