Congress is set to lose three Rajya Sabha seats from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The party does not even have the strength to field candidates in the biennial elections to the Upper House slated to be held on 11 June. Two Congress MPs, Jairam Ramesh and J.D. Seelam, are retiring from Andhra Pradesh, but the party doesn’t have a single MLA in the state Assembly.
In Telangana, V. Hanumanth Rao, senior Congress leader and three-time MP, is retiring, but the party has only 14 MLAs in the state Assembly as against the required 40 first preference votes to elect an RS member. Rao, who currently leads a parliamentary forum for OBCs, tried his best to secure the support of ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi for his re-election, but Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao is said to have turned down his request.
Jairam Ramesh, who had scripted the AP bifurcation Act and coordinated with the party MPs in the Rajya Sabha for its passage, has no hopes of re-election as the Congress stands decimated in AP. Seelam, a former civil servant turned politician, is also not set to get a fresh RS terms despite carrying clout as a Dalit leader.
The Congress, which is currently in a position to stall the legislative agenda of the ruling National Democratic Alliance in Rajya Sabha, is set to lose three more members in the next round of biennial elections to the Upper House due in two years.
Apart from Hanumanth Rao, Gundu Sudha Rani is another member retiring from Telangana. Sudha Rani was originally elected on a Telegu Desam Party ticket but she joined the TRS last year. She is seeking another term to the Upper House. KCR has not yet begun the exercise to select his two candidates for the RS.
Besides the Congress members, AP has two other retiring RS members—Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Y.S. Chowdary. The ruling TDP and BJP combine had an original strength of 106 MLAs. But its strength increased to 123 after 17 MLAs of opposition YSR Congress defected to the TDP.
Sources in the TDP told this newspaper that some more YSR Congress MLAs will join the ruling party, thus making it easy for the ruling coalition to win three RS seats.
The choice of the candidates will be known only after Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu returns from a foreign holiday on Sunday, 15 May. While Chowdary’s candidacy is believed to have been confirmed, there is a possibility of another OBC leader being sent to RS.
AP Finance Minister and senior TDP leader Yanamala Ramakrishnudu is keen to leave state politics and become a parliamentarian. Ramakrishnudu belongs to the Yadav (OBC) community and he had joined the TDP in 1982 as a founder member. Due to his vast experience as a senior minister, who presented a record number of six budgets, Ramakrishnudu might to be sent to the RS to lobby for AP’s interests with the Centre.
The fate of Nirmala Sitharaman will be known only after Naidu meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on Tuesday in connection with a Centre’s review meeting on the drought relief operations in AP. Naidu, according to sources close to him, will certainly discuss the issue of leaving a seat to the BJP—for Nirmala Sitharaman.
A senior BJP MLC from AP told this newspaper on Friday that the candidacy of Nirmala Sitharaman has almost been confirmed and it would be announced soon.