Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman election: Congress for consensus candidate

Party says it has an open mind on Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman’s election

Days ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament, the Congress indicated that it had an open mind on the issue of electing a new Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, including fielding one of its own members.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, however, has deputed senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge to discuss with Opposition parties the possibility of fielding a candidate who enjoys the broadest consensus.

All Opposition partis are meeting on Monday to discuss strategy for the session. In terms of numbers, the Opposition with 112 members have a clear edge over the NDA that has only 95 MPs in the Rajya Sabha. But opinion is divided on which party should field a candidate to replace P.J. Kurien, whose term ended on July 2.

The Trinamool Congress, with 14 MPs (including one rebel Left MP), wants to field its person, but is being opposed by the CPI(M) and CPI. Parties such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the AIADMK and the YSR Congress Party, officially not part of any bloc, could be a deciding factor with nearly 30 MPs.

Congress insiders say though Mr. Azad has been in touch with Trinamool leaders, the Congress would prefer to arrive at a consensus candidate and present a united face of the Opposition to take on the NDA if there is an election.

Short session

However, there is a possibility that the election may be delayed as the monsoon session has just 18 working days and the ruling party, the BJP, is yet to take a stand.

“There have been precedents, and the Chairman can nominate a few members to preside over the proceedings in his absence,” said a Rajya Sabha official who did not wish to be named. The Opposition’s final stand is likely to be decided at the meeting before the start of the session next Wednesday.

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