Top leaders in race as Cong may get 11 RS seats, improve its position in Upper House
The Congress is likely to get 11 Rajya Sabha seats in the upcoming election cycle with some of its top leaders, including P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh, eyeing another term.
This will also help the Congress strengthen its party position in the Upper House of Parliament from the current 29 to 33 members.
Some other top Congress leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik, Randeep Surjewala, Ajay Maken and Rajeev Shukla, are waiting in the wings to get a Rajya Sabha nomination.
Of the 55 vacancies arising in the Rajya Sabha in the next two months, seven Congress members -- Chidambaram (Maharashtra), Ramesh (Karnataka), Ambika Soni (Punjab), Vivek Tankha (Madhya Pradesh), Pradeep Tamta (Uttarakhand), Kapil Sibal (Uttar Pradesh) and Chhaya Verma (Chhattisgarh) -- will be completing their terms.
The Congress will be gaining three to four seats in the Upper House if it manages to get all the three seats that are falling vacant in Rajasthan.
While the party will get two seats in Chhattisgarh, where it is in power, it will get one seat each in Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, where it shares power with other like-minded parties.
The Congress is also likely to get one seat each in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka on the strength of its MLAs in these states.
Sources said while Chidambaram and Ramesh are hopeful that the party leadership would give a nod to them for another term, there are a host of other leaders who are waiting for a Rajya Sabha berth for some time now.
Chidambaram is eyeing the lone Rajya Sabha seat from Tamil Nadu. He has already met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK leader M K Stalin. However, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's team is pushing for a young face in Praveen Chakravarty, the head of the party's Data Analytics department, for the seat.
Three-time Rajya Sabha member Ramesh will get a fourth term if his name is cleared for the lone seat in Karnataka, from where Surjewala is also a contender.
In Haryana, Surjewala, Kumari Selja and Kuldeep Bishnoi are vying for the lone seat, but former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is pushing for the nomination of Anand Sharma. The former Union minister is a prominent member of the "Group of 23" and is considered close to Hooda, who is also a member of the grouping.
Sources said Kapil Sibal was offered a Rajya Sabha berth by ally Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), but the Congress leadership was not ready. Sibal quit the Congress on Wednesday and got a Rajya Sabha nomination from Uttar Pradesh as an Independent with the support of the Samajwadi Party (SP).
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress has two seats and Shukla is vying for another term from the state.
The Congress will surely get two seats from Rajasthan and may also get another seat with the support of some MLAs. Maken and Azad are said to be strong contenders for the seats.
In Maharashtra, where the party shares power in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, it may get one Rajya Sabha seat, and Wasnik and Avinash Pande are in the race for it.
The race is also between the old guard in the Congress and the young leaders, who are keen to get a Rajya Sabha nomination, keeping in view the party's push for the youth. However, this may not happen immediately as the "50 below 50" formula will not be applicable in the current Rajya Sabha nominations, the sources said.