With the Election Commission announcing elections for three Rajya Sabha seats from Kerala on April 12, it remains to be seen whom the Congress will pick as its candidate for the one seat it can win.
Among the three seats, one seat, held by Congress member Vyalar Ravi, will stay in the party’s kitty, while the two other seats, held by Left Democratic Front, will be retained by them due to their strength in the outgoing house.
Speculation is rife in Congress circles that former Leader of Opposition in the upper house and prominent “G23” leader Ghulam Nabi Azad may be sent back to the Rajya Sabha from the state in view of his long experience and as a “truce offer” ahead of the Congress presidential elections in May-June.
But if Azad gets elected, he will not be getting his old post which is now held by party veteran Mallikarjun Kharge. Sources close to Azad are tight-lipped as they watch the developments.
Azad was one of the prominent leaders of the dissenting group who wrote to interim President Sonia Gandhi seeking sweeping reforms in the party. Former party chief Rahul Gandhi has also acknowledged that there are divergent views in the party but hailed it as a strength of the party.
While Congress sources are indicating Azad could be picked, there is the problem that the state unit may oppose his candidature as in the past too, it has refused to accommodate candidates from other state. A leader, however, said that this time, the scenario is different.
The problem started in March last year when K.C. Venugopal was given a Rajya Sabha berth from Rajasthan as many state leaders had raised the issue that Kerala will also have to reciprocate later.
On the other hand, the Congress in Kerala has no senior leaders to be sent to the Rajya Sabha as P.C. Chacko, who could have been a contender, has left the party for the NCP, while other leaders are contesting te Assembly polls. only state President Mullapaly Ramchandran, a former Union Minister, could qualify.
Sources, however, say that ahead of the Presidential election, the party may want to be as united to cull controversy and pave way for Rahul Gandhi’s taking over as President again, as any proxy may not be acceptable to the senior leaders who have indicated it many times in the past.
During the Jammu event when G-23 leaders addressed a joint public meeting, senior leader Kapil Sibal had pointed out that Azad’s experience is not utilised in the party while recently he said that they are trying to protect the party while Anand Sharma said that the party is all united under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership.
But in the recent star campaigners list for the upcoming Assembly elections, the names of senior leaders including Azad and Anand Sharma were missing, leading to raised eyebrows in that quarter, who, however, feel that they might be accommodated in the next lists.
In the Jammu event, Azad, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Sibal, and Manish Tewari were among those present but the Congress has played down the whole episode.
Party leader and spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “Each of the persons who are in Jammu are well-regarded in the party. We are proud to have them in our party and I believe they are equally proud to be members of the Congress party, therefore, they are part of this Congress family and therefore, whatever I say is with the greatest respect to the leaders.”