Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge is likely to replace Ghulam Nabi Azad as the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, PTI reported. The party has reportedly written to the Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, who is the chairperson of the Upper House, to appoint Kharge to the position.
The post will fall vacant after Azad’s tenure as a Rajya Sabha member ends on February 15. Azad is a member of the Rajya Sabha from Jammu and Kashmir, which presently does not have an Assembly after it became a Union Territory following the revocation of special status granted to it under Article 370.
Kharge, a Dalit leader from Karnataka, was the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha from 2014 to 2019. The Congress could not get the leader of the opposition’s post in the previous and the current Lok Sabha as its numbers were less than the mandated 10% of the total seats needed for claiming the post.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi bid farewell to Azad in Rajya Sabha. Referring to Azad as a friend, the prime minister could not hold his tears while reminiscing Azad’s efforts during a 2007 terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir in which some tourists from Gujarat were killed.
Modi said he believed that Azad’s concern for the country will not let him rest and whatever responsibilities he takes in the future would be beneficial for the country. “At a personal level, I would request him to not believe that he is not in the House,” the prime minister said. “My door is always open for all of you. I will always expect and value your inputs.”
The next day, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had called Modi’s emotional farewell speech an “artfully crafted performance”.