New Delhi, March 7: The Congress leadership has decided to re-nominate five ministers whose Rajya Sabha terms end between April and July.
Although the states from where these leaders will be nominated have not yet been worked out, sources said party president Sonia Gandhi had assured the five about their membership.
While information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni will retire from the Rajya Sabha on July 4, environment minister Jairam Ramesh will complete his term on June 21. Defence minister A.K. Antony and commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma are scheduled to retire on April 2. Sports minister M.S. Gills term ends on April 9.
Soni and Gill had been elected from Punjab, Ramesh from Andhra Pradesh, Sharma from Himachal Pradesh and Antony from Kerala.
While Antony, Ramesh, Gill and Soni are expected to be re-nominated from the same states, Sharma will have to be nominated from somewhere outside Himachal because the Congress does not have the strength to get a seat in that state.
There had been speculation about Sharmas fate initially as many senior leaders resented his sudden rise. But he enjoys the confidence of both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia.
Gill, too, had faced stiff resistance from Punjab leaders but the high command has decided to persist with him. The other Congress candidate from Punjab whose term ends with Gill is former minister Ashwini Kumar, but he may not be re-nominated.
Other senior leaders whose terms are ending are Congress general secretaries B.K. Hariprasad, Mohsina Kidwai and Oscar Fernandes, and veterans like R.K. Dhawan, Satish Sharma, V. Hanumantha Rao and Janardan Reddy.
While Fernandes and Hariprasad are certain to be retained, sources said the high command was keen to accommodate Kidwai and Dhawan elsewhere.
Kidwai had refused a gubernatorial assignment despite pressure from the party. The Congress hopes she will change her mind once her Rajya Sabha term ends. Sources said Dhawan may also have to take up a governors post.
With several new aspirants, the Congress is facing difficulties in accommodating all its sitting Rajya Sabha members as its strength has declined in many states, including Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, Assam and Andhra.
The task of selecting candidates has become difficult as many states are opposed to accommodating outsiders.