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Safe House beckons Manmohan
- RS poll date announced, stage set for a first by a Prime Minister

New Delhi, April 30: Manmohan Singh is expected to become the first Prime Minister of the country to seek re-election to the Rajya Sabha, which will ensure his continuance in office.

The biennial election to the Assam seat represented by Singh will be held on May 24, the Election Commission announced today.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Singh, whose term in the Upper House comes to an end on June 14, would seek another term in the Rajya Sabha. “He will get re-elected for another term,” one of the sources said, pointing out that the ruling Congress has sufficient votes in Assam.

“You can rest assure that the re-election of the chief executive of the country can hardly be a matter of uncertainty,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said later.

Officially, Singh is a tenant of a Guwahati house that belonged to a former Assam chief minister, the late Hiteswar Saikia. The Prime Minister is also a registered voter in Assam.

Although there is no constitutional bar on a Prime Minister seeking re-election to the Rajya Sabha while in office, this is the first time someone will be doing so.

Besides Singh, two other Prime Ministers — H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral — had used the Rajya Sabha route. Gowda got elected to the Upper House after becoming Prime Minister. Gujral was already a Rajya Sabha member when the mantle fell on him. Since neither could complete the term, the need for re-election did not arise.

Since Rajya Sabha elections do not have the direct involvement of ordinary voters, the Lok Sabha polls are considered more representative of the will of the people.

Keeping this mind, politicians used to prefer the Lok Sabha, especially if they had to assume key posts such as the Prime Minister’s. (See chart)

P.V. Narasimha Rao, who persuaded a reluctant Singh to take the political plunge and spearhead the economic reforms, was not a member of Parliament when he became Prime Minister in June 1991. When it came to getting elected to Parliament within the stipulated six months, Rao opted to contest a Lok Sabha election from Nandyal in Andhra Pradesh.

Indira Gandhi, when she first became Prime Minister in 1966, was a member of the Rajya Sabha. However, general elections were held next year and she was elected to the Lok Sabha from Rae Bareli.

With the Rajya Sabha remaining a favourite fallback option for politicians allergic to the heat and dust of elections, few were willing to make it an issue.

“It (the Rajya Sabha contest) is in compliance with the letter of the Constitution, but we believe it violates the spirit of the Constitution. A vast country like India should be governed by somebody who is elected directly by the people,” BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

“Getting elected to the Lok Sabha is something that is conventional and more desirable,” Prasad added, choosing his words with care.

But the Prime Minister’s party said there is nothing wrong with the practise of holding high office through the Rajya Sabha. “Why should we have any problem' He (Singh) has been a Rajya Sabha member for long,” Janardhan Dwivedi, who heads the Congress media cell, said.

Rumours used to surface once in a while that the Congress is thinking of fielding the Prime Minister in a Lok Sabha seat but the party had debunked them.

Bengal RS poll

By-election to a Rajya Sabha seat from Bengal, which fell vacant due to the death of CPM leader Chittabrata Mazumder, will also be held on May 24.

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