Mallikarjun Kharge
Former Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge (C) at the parliament to unveil the interim railway budget in New Delhi. (12 February 2014)Reuters

Senior Congress leader and former railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge has been appointed the leader of the party in Lok Sabha, which may lead him to becoming the Leader of Opposition in the Lower House of the Parliament.

The news was confirmed by Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi. The newly elected 16th Lok Sabha's first session will begin on 4 June and will continue for a week.

Septuagenarian Kharge, who is from Karnataka, had defeated Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Revunaik Belamagi and Janata Dal (Secular)'s Dhulappa Gundappa to retain the Gulbarga seat in the recent general elections.

Kharge has vast experience in both state and national-level politics. He was minister for several terms in both state government and the Union government. In fact, he was a serious contender for the Chief Minister's post in Karnataka during the last three terms.

In the general elections, Congress faced its worst ever performance, winning only 44 seats out of the total 543 seats in Lok Sabha. In that backdrop, speculations were rife about who will be made the party's leader in Lok Sabha.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 336 seats, with BJP being the largest party in Lok Sabha with 282 seats. Though Congress is the second largest party with 44 seats, it faces a 11-seat shortage to claim the post of Leader of Oppostion.

To be the Leader of Opposition, the main opposition party should have at least 55 seats - 10 percent of the total seats.

In the current circumstances, it is understood that the Speaker can take a decision on his/her own and confer the Leader of Opposition's post to Congress as it is the second largest party in the House. Even Dwivedi said the Speaker would take a decision on appointing the Leader of Opposition.

The NDA government recently announced senior Congress leader Kamal Nath's name for the Protem Speaker's post. Prior to that, Nath's name was doing the rounds for the post of Leader of Opposition.

Senior leader Digvijay Singh had even suggested Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's name for the post of Leader of Oppostion. Former Union minister Veerappa Moily had also advocated that Congress should get the post of Leader of Oppostion in Lok Sabha.