by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
Congress in a dilemma over Azad & Punia RS nomination
New Delhi, Feb 26
A tricky situation has arisen in the Congress with two sitting Rajya Sabha MPs Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and P L Punia are seeking re-nomination despite much ahead of their time of retirement.
Ghulam Nabi Azad represents Jammu & Kashmir in the Rajya Sabha and his tenure is ending in February 2021 while Punia's term is coming to an end nine months from now in November 2020. Punia was elected to the Rajya Sabha from UP in November 2014. Both of them cannot be re-elected from their respective states as J &K House stands dissolved and Congress doesn't have the numbers to get Punia re-elected in UP in November 2020. Hence, both of them want to be re-elected in April biennial polls.
It is in this background that suggestions have been made to bring Azad to the Rajya Sabha either from Maharashtra or any other states where party can win good number of seats. Since Azad is a face of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the high command can ill-afford to lose him. Of course, there are biennial polls due in Karnataka in June where Congress can win two Rajya Sabha seats. But Mallikarjune Kharge, B K Hariprasad and Prof. M V Rajeev Gowda are already in the reckoning for two seats. Therefore, the high command may have to take a call on Azad during this round itself.
Similarly, P L Punia wants a Rajya Sabha seat from Chhattisgarh where the party will win two Rajya Sabha seats. He hails from Chhattisgarh too. But the Congress has a battery of claimants for Rajya Sabha seats.
These senior leaders are eyeing for Rajya Sabha seats for the 13 seats that the party is likely to win in this round of biennial polls. Interestingly, 13 members of the Rajya Sabha are retiring and party's strength in the Upper House may remain the same at 46.
Several Congress veterans like Digvijay Singh, Jytoraditya Scindia, Ku. Selja, T Subiram Reddy, Madhusudam Mistry, Rajiv Shukla, a close confidante of the Gandhi family are in the race. The names of party General Secretary K C Venugopal, Mukul Wasnik and RPN Singh are also being mentioned for possible contenders for Rajya Sabha seats.
Motilal Vora, due to his age, unlikely to make the cut this time.