Who Is Cong Fielding To Replace Ghulam Azad as Opposition Leader?

The Congress veteran leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad has been the face of the party for nearly two decades.

Updated
India
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Azad is set to retire on 15 February and will vacate the post of the Leader of Opposition in the Upper House.
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Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, is one among the four members retiring from the Upper House this month.

Azad became a Rajya Sabha member in 1990, representing Maharashtra before becoming the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. In 2009, he was the House MP from J&K state, before becoming the Leader of the Opposition, chosen by Congress in 2014.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had an emotional moment in the Upper House as he bid farewell to the Congress MP, and said that the Opposition leader who will replace Azad will “have difficulty matching his work because he (Azad) was not only concerned about his party but also about the country and the House.”

Azad is set to retire on 15 February and will vacate the post of the Leader of Opposition in the Upper House.

Who Will Take Azad’s Place?

The Congress is now considering candidates to take the place of the veteran leader who has been the face of the party for nearly two decades. Sources told The Indian Express that the party will announce the replacement after his tenure ends on 15 February.

Some eminent candidates being considered are former Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge who has raised issues on the party’s behalf often in the Lok Sabha, as well as former finance minister, P Chidambaram, reported Livehindustan. However, the report added that Chidambaram not being fluent in Hindi is a disadvantage for his consideration.

Meanwhile, it may be noted that Kharge has been allotted the 10, Rajaji Marg residence, which was the last address of former President Pranab Mukherjee. As this is prominent address, this may be seen as a possible indication of his elevation to Azad’s position.

Former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijaya Singh is another frontrunner in the race.

Two other veteran leaders, Anand Sharma, the Congress deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, as well as MP Kapil Sibal are also being considered for the position. However, these candidates have spoken up in the past suggesting an overhaul of the party, which could work against them, noted Livehindustan.

Could Azad Come Back?

There are also rumours of bringing Azad back to the Rajya Sabha by nominating him from Kerala in April, said a source to Hindustan Times. He had announced his retirement in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday saying that he is a “proud Indian Muslim”.

"If any Muslim should feel proud in the world, it should be the Indian Muslim. Over the years, we have seen how Muslim countries from Afghanistan to Iraq getting destroyed. There are no Hindus or Christians there, they are fighting amongst themselves," stated Azad, on an emotional note.

(With inputs from The Indian Express, Hindustan Times and Livehindustan)

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