Mallikarjun Kharge to succeed Ghulam Nabi Azad as Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha

The Congress has written to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for appointing Kharge to the post of leader of opposition after Azad's retirement, they added.

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge will replace Ghulam Nabi Azad as the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the party said on Friday.

Following Azad’s retirement, the Congress had written to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for appointing Kharge to the leader of the opposition post, which will fall vacant after Azad’s tenure as a Rajya Sabha member ends on February 15.

Azad is a member of the Upper House from Jammu and Kashmir, which does not have an Assembly currently after it was made a Union Territory with the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution.

Kharge, a Dalit leader from Karnataka, was the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha from 2014 to 2019. The grand old party could not get the leader of the opposition’s post in the previous and the current Lok Sabha as its numbers were less than the mandated 10 per cent of the total number of seats in the Lower House for claiming the post.

The other choices of Congress for the post were Anand Sharma, currently the deputy leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha; former Union minister P Chidambaram; and ex-Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh. All of them fit the bill in one way or the other.

On February 9, amid the Government-Opposition standoff in Parliament over the farm laws, Prime Minister Narendra Modi bid a tearful farewell to Azad. Modi broke down several times during his 13-minute speech, as he recalled his close association with Azad. “At a personal level, I would request him to not consider that he is not in the House. My door is always open for all of you… I will always expect, and value, your views,” Modi said. “I will not let you retire,” he told the Congress veteran.

Azad also turned emotional during his response. He said the BJP has always been part of “nationalist politics”, and he felt “proud” that he was a “Hindustani Muslim”. While he did not mention the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, he sought to draw attention to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. Addressing Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, Azad said: “Both of you are sitting here. Build the homes which were uprooted, we will all have to try for this”.

(With PTI inputs)

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