Mallikarjun Kharge to be next Leader of Oppn in RS

Mallikarjun Kharge to be next Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha

He will succeed Ghulam Nabi Azad who retires from Rajya Sabha on February 15

Mallikarjun Kharge. Credit: PTI Photo

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge will be next Leader of Opposition in the Upper House, with the party capping the suspense on who will succeed Ghulam Nabi Azad, retiring on February 15.

Kharge (78), who was Leader of Congress in the previous Lok Sabha, was elected to Rajya Sabha in June last year after the party leadership decided to accommodate him in the Upper House, as he had lost the 2019 polls.

He will be the second leader from Karnataka to be the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha after M S Gurupadaswamy, one of the founders of Janata Party and the second Leader of Opposition between March 1971 and April 1972. Overall, he will be the 17th Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha.

Gurupadaswamy was also Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha between December 1989 and November 1990 and then again became Leader of Opposition between June-July 1991 for the second time. The post of Leader of Opposition was established in Rajya Sabha in 1969 and Shyam Nandan Mishra (Congress-O) was the first Leader of Opposition between December 1969 to March 1971.

The news about Congress nominating Kharge came on the last day of Budget Session's first leg in Rajya Sabha. Azad, who will retire three days later and is at loggerheads with the leadership, came to Rajya Sabha at around 2.30 pm when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was replying to the budget debate. 

Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday about the party's choice of Kharge as the successor of Azad, who has served as the LOP for the longest period of six years and nine months, followed by Sikander Bakht (5 years 10 months), Manmohan Singh (5 years 9 months) and Arun Jaitley (5 years 2 months).

A Gandhi family loyalist, Kharge's election to Rajya Sabha was seen as party leadership's plans to elevate him as Leader of Opposition when Azad retires.

With no Assembly in place in Jammu and Kashmir, Azad cannot return to the House immediately. He can return only if the Congress decides to field him from Kerala where Rajya Sabha polls could take place before April.

As Azad's tenure was coming to close, there was speculation about Congress' Deputy Leader Anand Sharma and senior leaders Digvijay Singh and P Chidambaram besides Kharge being considered for the post. The Congress High Command, however, decided to rely on Kharge.

Azad's return to the Rajya Sabha also looks unlikely in the near future as he along with Sharma and other senior leaders, now known as G-23, wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi seeking clarity on the leadership question. They had also demanded elections to the party president.

Who is M S Gurupadaswamy?

M S Gurupadaswamy, who was born in August 1924, hailed from Mysuru in Karnataka and was a founder of Janata Party. He was the Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha as well as twice the Leader of the Opposition. He was a minister in Indira Gandhi government during 1967-69 and was one of the first ministers to resign when the Congress split in 1969. He also served as minister in the VP Singh government in 1989-90. Gurupadaswamy passed away in May 2011.