Ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament, which will see the election of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman, President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday nominated four new members to the Upper House on the recommendation of the Union government. The names include BJP leader and former Lok Sabha MP Ram Shakal, academic and columnist Rakesh Sinha, sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra and classical dancer Sonal Mansingh. While Shakal, a Dalit and farmer leader, has represented Uttar Pradesh’s Robertsganj in the Lok Sabha in 1996,1998 and in 1999, Sinha has been the voice of the Sangh in television debates and is the founder and honorary director of Delhi-based think tank India Policy Foundation.
Shakal’s nomination comes at a time when the BJP is facing flak not only for the attacks on Dalits in different parts of the country but also for the government’s dilly-dallying over taking legislative measures against the March 20 order of the Supreme Court “diluting” the SC/ST Act.
A statement released by the PMO said that Shakal is “an eminent people’s leader and public representative from Uttar Pradesh, who has devoted his life for the welfare and well being of the Dalit community”. The statement described Sinha, a professor at Motilal Nehru College of Delhi University, as a “respected and widely read author”. He has authored a book on RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.
The nominations, which come after former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, veteran actor Rekha, former Attorney General of India K Parasaran and businesswoman Anu Aga retired earlier this year, assume significance as it comes at a time when the ruling BJP is set to face a trial by fire for electing a deputy chairperson of its choice in the Upper House.
The numbers in the Rajya Sabha currently are stacked against the BJP with the ruling party having just 69 votes, along with its current allies and independents, which is still short of the total votes required to win an election to the post.
With these four new nominations, the strength of the House will be 248.