WILL THE Congress bring fresh faces to Rajya Sabha or will it renominate members who have just retired? And, will it bring to the crucial Upper House some of its eloquent and heavyweight former ministers such as Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram?
As the party begins consultation to select nominees for Rajya Sabha, these questions weigh heavily on the minds of its top leaders.
The Congress’s decision to recently nominate some fresh faces — Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo from Punjab and Ranee Narah and Ripun Borah from Assam — has sparked hope among aspirants. But at the same time the party had renominated bigwigs such as A K Antony and Anand Sharma.
Of 57 members from 15 states who are set to retire between June and August, 14 are from the Congress. The party is certain of getting seven seats, and there is a possibility of securing a seat each from Karnataka and UP.
Sources said there is a possibility of Sibal getting a nomination from Bihar, where the JD(U)-RJD-Congress grand alliance is in a position to win four out of five seats. Although all the seats falling vacant are of the JD(U), the Congress hopes to persuade the ally to part with one seat.
In Karnataka, the party can win a third seat with the help of Independents and smaller parties. With 45 votes required by each candidate, the Congress has 124 members and after ensuring victory of its two candidates, will be left with 34 surplus votes. While that is 12 votes short of getting a third seat, the party is eyeing the nine Independents and some smaller parties with a combined strength of seven seats to get another party nominee elected.
Sources said Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah wants former Union minister C M Ibrahim to be one of the candidates. Sources in the party said the retiring Congress member, Oscar Fernandes, is unlikely to be denied a renomination.
According to sources, Siddaramaiah wanted a ticket for businessman-friend Byrathi Suresh from Hebbal seat in the bypolls earlier this year but detractors such as Mallikarjun Kharge, B K Hariprasad and Oscar Fernandes threw their weight behind former Railway minister C K Jaffer Sharief’s grandson C K Abdul Rehman, who got the ticket and eventually lost the bypolls. Party leaders say the high command is unlikely to snub Siddaramaiah again.
In the race for tickets from the state are former CM S M Krishna and Karnataka Mahila Congress president Laxmi Hebbalkar.
In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress has the numbers to get one of its nominees elected. The party generally gives two terms to a member, and many believe it will renominate Vijaylaxmi Sadho. But there is a strong chance of senior lawyer Vivek Tankha landing the ticket. Tankha is seen as close to general secretary Digvijaya Singh. Sadho, too, is said to be in the Singh camp. In the reckoning are Mahila Congress chief Shobha Oza and state Congress chief Arun Yadav. There is a strong demand from Madhya Pradesh leaders that the seat be given to a local.
In Uttarakhand, state Congress chief Kishore Upadhyay is said to be eying the lone seat for himself. While Upadhyay is close to Chief Minister Harish Rawat, many believe Rawat could swing the seat for wife Renuka. What has complicated matters for the party is that ally PDF, on whose support the Rawat government survives, has also staked claim for the seat.
In Punjab, the party can win one seat, and many believe Ambika Soni could be renominated. Interestingly, sources said state Congress chief Amarinder Singh is said to be keen on Sibal getting the ticket. Sources said retiring MP Avinash Pande could be renominated from Maharashtra.