UPDATED: February 12, 2021 11:12 IST
Veteran Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge is all set to be the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha following the exit of another veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Congress has picked Mallikarjun Kharge as Ghulam Nabi Azad’s replacement. Congress will be informing the Rajya Sabha chairman on the appointment.
Ghulam Nabi Azad was among the four members in the Rajya Sabha who retired on Tuesday. Azad was given an emotional farewell by the House and PM Modi, who broke into tears while heaping praises on the Congress leader.
In his speech, PM Modi said it would be difficult for anyone to fill the shoes of Ghulam Azad as he cared not only about his political affiliation but also about the country and Rajya Sabha.
Congress has picked its senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge to lead the party’s charge in Rajya Sabha as the Leader of Opposition. Mallikarjun Kharge will step into the shoes of Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad, who has worked under four members of the Gandhi family at the helm of the party.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was given a fond farewell in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, would be retiring on February 15.
Sources said that a decision on this is likely to be conveyed to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu as early as Friday. Azad has been the leader of Congress and LoP since NDA led by PM Modi came to power in 2014.
Azad first became a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1990. Azad, who was considered a trusted aide of the Gandhi family at one time, fell out of favour recently when he became part of a group of leaders which pushed for “reforms” in the Congress.
The Congress urgently needed to pick his replacement in a House where the government doesn’t have a clear majority and depends on several non-Congress, non-BJP parties to push critical legislative agenda as there is no Rajya Sabha election due till April.
Congress sources have said that since the seats are falling vacant in states like Kerala, there is a possibility that Azad’s renomination may face a challenge.
On the other hand, Mallikarjun Kharge is considered the frontrunner among three probables Deputy leader of Congress in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma and Digvijaya Singh. The party has other senior leaders like P Chidambaram as well in Rajya Sabha.
Anand Sharma like Azad, is a member of the group of leaders, who have flagged the need for change in leadership and thus was ruled out. Chidambaram is senior, but his discomfort in speaking in Hindi came as a drawback.
The scales were loaded in favour of Kharge as he is a loyalist and has the experience of leading the Congress from 2014-2019 in Lok Sabha. He was sent to Rajya Sabha after he lost the 2019 Lok Sabha election.