Sonia, Rahul return to India amid Opposition’s standoff with government over farm bills

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Congress president Sonia Gandhi accompanied by her son Rahul Gandhi returned to India on Tuesday morning after undergoing a routine health check-up in the United States, people familiar with the development said.

The two had left for the US on September 12.

Both of them missed a major part of the monsoon session of Parliament that began on September 14. The session is likely to be curtailed in view of the rising number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in the country with several Members of Parliament (MPs) and the Parliament staff having tested positive.

Confirming their return, an aide of Rahul Gandhi said the two leaders reached Delhi at around 7am on Tuesday.

“Congress President, Smt. Sonia Gandhi is travelling today onwards for a routine follow up & medical check-up, which was deferred due to the pandemic. She is accompanied by Sh. Rahul Gandhi. We take this opportunity to thank everyone for their concern & good wishes,” the party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had tweeted on September 12.

Before leaving, Sonia Gandhi had carried out major organisational changes, reconstituted the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and her team of office bearers, and also formed a special panel to help her in organisational and operational matters till the next session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), to be held within six months.

Apart from Surjewala, the committee comprises AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal and Mukul Wasnik.

She had also chaired a meeting of the party’s parliament strategy group.

It was decided in the meeting that the Congress will raise the issues of the India-China border standoff, the Covid-19 situation across the country, the impact of lockdowns, the current state of the economy, the decline in GDP, GST compensation to states, job losses, agrarian distress and restoration of Question Hour during the session. The party had also decided to oppose the three farm bills.

The two agricultural bills — the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 — were cleared by voice vote in Parliament on Sunday even as the Opposition protested and stormed the well of the House seeking that they be sent to a select committee.

The ruckus resulted in the suspension of eight lawmakers — Rajeev Satav, Syed Nasir Hussain and Ripun Bora of the Congress, Derek O’Brien and Dola Sen of the Trinamool Congress, KK Ragesh and Elamaram Kareem of the CPI(M) and Sanjay Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Parliament on Tuesday also passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill after the Opposition staged a walk-out and decided to boycott the entire session till the suspension of the eight MPs was revoked.

And from September 24 onwards, the Congress will hit the streets across the country against the government for passing “anti-farmer and anti-poor” bills in Parliament.

The party will also launch a campaign to collect two crore signatures from protesting farmers against the proposed legislations.

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