With the date of the Rajya Sabha elections for Gujarat having been declared, former IPS officer Kuldip Sharma and former IAS officer P K Valera are among several Congress leaders in the race to seek nomination for the Upper House from the state. While Sharma is Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) vice-president, Valera happens to be the party’s state unit general secretary. Both of them are reported to have sent their claims to party high command, along with their biodata.
Valera is also reported to have personally called on Congress president Rahul Gandhi before the latter went on a foreign tour and presented his case strongly with the support of AICC general secretary and party’s Gujarat affairs in-charge Ashok Gehlot.
When contacted, Valera admitted that he had met Gandhi a few weeks ago in Delhi and put his claim before him. He said that a Dalit candidate had always been nominated by the party to Rajya Sabha from the state since 1970s. The first was Yogendra Makwana, belonging to Vankar sub-caste, who was RS member for three terms from 1973 to 1988. Raju Parmar, hailing from Rohit sub-caste, was an RS member from 1988 to 2006, serving for three terms. After Parmar, Pravin Rashtrapal from Rohit sub-caste was nominated from the state twice in 2006 and 2012. After Rashtrapal passed away in 2016, the seat fell vacant and was won by the BJP in the Assembly elections. Valera, who belongs to Vankar sub-caste, has demanded that he be nominated to RS “in continuation of the party’s tradition to send at least one Dalit to Rajya Sabha from the state”.
He said it would also be logical as the BJP got Mahant Shambhuprasad Tundiya, a Dalit of the Vankar community, elected to the Upper House in 2014. Valera has been in the Congress for 17 years after his retirement from government service and has handled various assignments in the party.
Sharma, who joined the party in September 2015 after his retirement, is also using his connections in the high command for nominations to the Upper House. A senior party leader also confirmed that the former IPS officer had also met Rahul Gandhi sometime back in Delhi. Sharma is reported to be among those leaders who had prepared the party’s strategy in 2017 Assembly elections that greatly improved the party’s performance and increased the number of seats from 59 in 2012 to 77 in 2017 despite several odds.
When contacted, GPCC president Bharatsinh Solanki, said, “There are several aspirants for RS nomination. But I can’t disclose their names. Party chief Rahul Gandhi will take a final decision in the matter.”
There are a total of four RS seats to be filled up from the state which have fallen vacant after terms of four RS MPs all from the BJP ended on April 2. They are Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Parshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandaviya, as well as RS MP Shankarbhai Vegad.
With Congress having 77 MLAs, backed by two MLAs of the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) and Bhupendrasinh Khant, an Independent, the party has sufficient strength to win two of the RS seats. The Congress, at present, has two RS members Ahmed Patel and Madhusudan Mistry out of a total of 11 RS MPs from the state. The Congress tally in RS would increase to four from Gujarat if the party manages to win two more seats in the RS elections scheduled to be held on March 23.
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