Cong may back joint oppn nominee for RS deputy chairman

Cong may back joint oppn nominee for RS deputy chairman

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, PTI file photo

The Congress may back out from putting up a candidate for the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson's post and may back a joint opposition nominee as a successor to P J Kurien who retired on July 1.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi held a meeting with leaders of the party's parliamentary wing, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge on the strategy for the monsoon session beginning July 18 and the election to post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman.

“Gandhi has asked Azad to speak to other opposition leaders and elicit their views,” a Congress leader said adding that the Congress will not support a nominee of the BJP-led NDA.

The Trinamool Congress has been pushing the candidature of its leader Sukhendu Shekhar Ray for the coveted post that comes with the rank of a Union minister of state.

Azad has called a meeting of opposition leaders on Monday to chalk out the strategy for the monsoon session as well as the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson's election.

The Congress has always held the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s post, except between December 17, 1969 and March 20, 1977 when B D Khobragade of the Republican Party of India and Godey Murahari of Samyukta Socialist Party held the post.

In the number game, the Opposition has an upper-hand with 119 votes in its kitty. BJD, TRS and YSR Congress with a combined strength of 17 MPs were yet to open their cards. If they choose to abstain, it will only help the Opposition.

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had made a strong pitch for a consensus in the election of the Deputy Chairman. However, the opposition seems to be in no mood to oblige.

Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral is talked about as the NDA candidate for the post.

The last time the Rajya Sabha Deputy chairman's post witnessed a close election was in 1992. The then Congress leader Najma Heptullah had polled 128 votes to defeat the joint opposition nominee and TDP leader Renuka Chowdhury, who could win 95 votes.

Interestingly, Heptullah later joined the BJP while Chowdhury is now with the Congress.

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