Music composer Ilaiyaraaja, athlete PT Usha, screenwriter V Vijayendra Prasad along with philanthropist and social worker Veerendra Heggade were on Wednesday nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

They were nominated by the president on the advice of the Union Cabinet. The nominations are seen to be in line with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s push to expand its footprint in the southern region. Ilaiyaraaja is from Tamil Nadu, Usha from Kerala, Prasad from Andhra Pradesh and Heggade from Karnataka.

The nominations came on the day when BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Janata Dal (United) leader RCP Singh resigned from the Cabinet, a day before the completion of their Rajya Sabha terms. While Naqvi was the Union minister for minority affairs, Singh was the Union minister for steel.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday congratulated all four nominees on Twitter.

About the music composer, he wrote: “The creative genius of Ilaiyaraaja has enthralled people across generations. His works beautifully reflect many emotions. What is equally inspiring is his life journey – he rose from a humble background and achieved so much.”

Ilaiyaraaja has composed more than 7,000 songs for over 1,000 films in his nearly five-decade-long career. He has also won numerous awards, including the national award five times. The composer was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in India, in 2010 and the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award, in 2018.

In another tweet, Modi described Usha as an inspiration for every Indian. “Her accomplishments in sports are widely known but equally commendable is her work to mentor budding athletes over the last several years,” he added.

Usha, a track and field athlete, had dominated sporting events in the 1980s. Popularly known as the Payyoli Express, she has won 11 medals in Asian Games, including four golds in the 1986 Seoul Games.

About Prasad, the prime minister wrote: “V Vijayendra Prasad Garu has been associated with the creative world for decades. His works showcase India’s glorious culture and have made a mark globally.”

Prasad, the father of filmmaker SS Rajamouli, is one of leading screenwriters in Telugu cinema. He has also written for Tamil, Kannada and Hindi films. His works include Bajrangi Bhaijaan, RRR, both parts of Baahubali and Mersal.

Lastly, Modi spoke about Heggade and his community service. “I have had the opportunity to pray at the Dharmasthala Temple and also witness the great work he is doing in health, education and culture,” he said. “He will certainly enrich Parliamentary proceedings.”

Heggade has been the dharmadhikari, or administrator, of the Dharmasthala Temple in Karnataka since the age of 20. He is known for this philanthropic work. He established the Rural Development and Self-Employment Training Institute to provide awareness about self-employment opportunities and train rural youth.