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Sonia Gandhi elected leader of Congress Parliamentary Party

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(Eds: Updating with Rahul's quotes ) New Delhi, Jun 1 (PTI) UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi Saturday said several "decisive measures" were being mulled to strengthen the party after being re-elected as the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP). Addressing the newly-elected MPs at the CPP meeting in the central hall of Parliament here, she lauded party president Rahul Gandhi for his "fearless leadership" by taking on the Modi government and for his "valiant and relentless campaign" during the Lok Sabha polls. She also asked party MPs not to let their guard down. Sonia Gandhi urged them to play the role of an effective opposition and ensure better coordination and cooperation with like-minded parties in Rajya Sabha, where the government is challenging its numbers. She told the members that the issues they raise in Parliament must resonate in the minds of party workers and with the public. She said the party will play a constructive role in supporting the government in reform measures, but will oppose its "divisive and regressive actions". The meeting was attended by the party's 52 newly-elected Lok Sabha MPs and Rajya Sabha members, besides the Congress Working Committee (CWC) members and other leaders. Sonia Gandhi represents Uttar Pradesh's Rae Bareli in the Lok Sabha. Sources said the Congress Parliamentary Party authorised the UPA chairperson to pick the party's leader in Lok Sabha. She later met senior leaders and discussed the issue. "In this time of crisis, we must acknowledge the numerous challenges confronting the Congress party. The CWC met a few days ago to deliberate the next steps and the way forward for us. Several decisive measures to strengthen the party are being discussed," she told party MPs and leaders while hinting at changes in the Congress in the offing. Rahul Gandhi had pushed for his resignation even though the CWC rejected it and passed a resolution authorising him to bring structural changes in the party at all levels. Sources say the party is discussing several proposals, including installing a non-Gandhi as party chief and a body of senior leaders to act as a guiding force to new president. Asked about Rahul's resignation, party chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Rahul Gandhi is the Congress chief and there are no two opinions about it. "I would request all the naysayers to hold their breath; the Congress Working Committee has authorised Rahul Gandhi to do a complete overhaul of the organisation from top to bottom...I would request all my friends in the media to wait for a while rather than fall prey to speculation," he said. Sonia said though Congress had 44 MPs in the last Lok Sabha and 55 in Rajya Sabha, under Rahul's leadership the party fought bravely to expose the government's "misdeeds". "We were in the forefront of ensuring that some of the UPA's historic Acts were not diluted. At the same time, we cooperated with the government on a series of reforms with constructive suggestions. This time too, we will support progressive and inclusive policies, but oppose the government strongly whenever they undertake divisive and regressive actions," she said. While thanking 12.3 crore voters, Sonia Gandhi said, "Your vote to the Congress party is a vote for safeguarding our Constitution, a vote for economic and social progress, a vote for liberty, and for social justice." Lauding Rahul Gandhi's role as party chief, she said, "I also take this opportunity to whole-heartedly thank Rahul Ji for his valiant and relentless campaign. As Congress president, he has given his all and toiled night and day for the Congress party." She said he demonstrated his "fearless leadership" by taking on the Modi government and highlighted the "injustices" carried out against farmers, workers, traders and small businesses, youth, women and the marginalised. She also said Rahul has rejuvenated the Congress organisation in many states, and most recently led the party to victory in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. "As Congress president, he earned the respect and love of every worker and crores of voters across the length and breadth of our country. Even as I speak, emotional messages are coming from all corners, vindicating his leadership. We all express our gratitude to him for his sincerity of purpose, relentless effort, hard work and leadership," she said. Sonia Gandhi's name was proposed by former prime minister Manmohan Singh and all party MPs endorsed it. Meanwhile, Rahul congratulated the newly-elected leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party. "Congratulations to Smt Sonia Gandhi on being elected Leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party. Under her leadership, the Congress will prove to be a strong and effective opposition party that will fight to defend the Constitution of India," he said. The Congress chief said the party's newly-elected 52 MPs will fight every inch of the way like "a pride of brave-hearted lions" to protect the Constitution and the country's institutions and there will be no walkover for the BJP. This was the first official meet attended by Rahul after the May 25 meeting of the party's working committee, where he had offered to quit as Congress chief. PTI SKC SRY

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