New Delhi, July 20: The Congress-led alliance at the Centre has chosen M. Rahman Khan, the minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers, for the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson’s post.
A Congress MP from Karnataka, Khan nudged veteran Kerala MP Vayalar Ravi out of the race. The minister today submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of Thursday’s election.
Parliamentary affairs minister Ghulam Nabi Azad announced that Khan was chosen after talks with the BJP-led Opposition. Azad is believed to have proposed Khan’s name to the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Jaswant Singh, this morning. Jaswant gave his nod on the NDA’s behalf.
But efforts to evolve a consensus were thwarted by the Shiv Sena, which decided to field Eknath Thakur for the post. Sena Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Nirupam said Thakur filed his nomination this afternoon. Party chief Bal Thackeray would urge Jaswant Singh to support Thakur, he said.
BJP sources have termed the development an “unhappy” one. They said they would persuade the Sena, which has only four members in the Upper House, to withdraw its candidate.
The decision to field Khan was formalised this afternoon in a meeting of senior cabinet ministers, attended by Pranab Mukherjee, Azad, Shivraj Patil, Arjun Singh and Hans Raj Bhardwaj.
Azad is likely to speak to leaders of other parties that count, like the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Samajwadi Party sources have already indicated that they have no problem with Khan. “A week ago, we were given to understand that the Congress had chosen Ravi for the post. We conveyed to their leaders that we were not in favour of a contest and would back whoever they put up. But, personally, we prefer Khan to Ravi because the latter is too politically astute for comfort,” a source said.
Congress sources say that though Ravi was the “first choice”, a rethink was prompted by the fear that the BJP may try to play the “Muslim card” and field former deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah against a “Hindu” candidate.
The BJP had initially toyed with the idea of putting up Najma, who crossed over to the party month ago. It claimed it was sure of getting the Samajwadi Party’s support. In such a scenario, the contest would have been close. The Congress then decided to pick a Muslim nominee.
A chartered accountant by training, Khan hails from Mandya in Karnataka and is serving a second term in the Rajya Sabha. He was also the leader of the Karnataka Legislative Council.