Congress’s Rahul Gandhi gave Parliament a miss this morning as the 17th Lok Sabha began after the national elections and the lawmakers took oath. His clarification came in the afternoon — long after his absence was noted in the Lok Sabha.
Administering oath to the 542 lawmakers takes the better part of two days and on Day One, the process was started with President Ram Nath Kovind administering oath to pro tem Speaker Virendra Kumar, who in turn administered oath to the other lawmakers.
As the Prime Minister took oath amid loud cheers and chants of “Modi, Modi”, the Ramdas Athawale, the lawmaker from the Republican Party of India, stood up and asked where Rahul Gandhi was.
A reply came from the opposition benches: “He is here and will come”. But Mr Gandhi was not seen in the House for long.
All 542 members of the Lok Sabha are expected to take oath over the next two days. Mr Gandhi, too, will be among them. The Congress chief, who lost the family turf Amethi to Smriti Irani, had won from Kerala’s Wayanad.
The loss had accentuated the abysmal performance of the Congress, which increased its tally marginally.
The party has scraped up 52 seats – up from the 44 it won in 2014. But many of the key leaders, including Mallikarjun Kharge, its leader in Lok Sabha, and Mr Gandhi’s close aide Jyotiraditya Scindia, have lost.
The Congress is yet to announce its leaders in either House of Parliament. The party is hoping that Rahul Gandhi will take charge in the Lok Sabha.
But there has been no response from Mr Gandhi, who is intent on quitting the post of the party chief after the massive rout that has disqualified it from having the post of the Leader of the Opposition for a second time.
Smiriti Irani, who won Amethi on her second attempt, also took oath today. The longest applause was reserved for her.
As Ms Irani rose to take oath, members of the ruling BJP — including PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh and other ministers and lawmakers were seen enthusiastically thumping their desks for a long time.
Rahul Gandhi was not around for it either.
Turned out that Mr Gandhi was going to take oath in the afternoon.