Congress to move Manmohan Singh from Assam

Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, whose tenure as a Rajya Sabha member from Assam ends on June 14, is unlikely to be sent to the Upper House from the State again.The Congress does not have the numbers in the Assam Assembly to secure a win for Dr. Singh and would not like to take a risk. The Election Commission has announced June 7 as the day of election. The last day for filing nominations is May 28. In the 126-member Assam Assembly, the Congress has only 25 MLAs, while the party needs first-preference votes of at least 43. Even if the Congress gets the support of 13 MLAs of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), it falls short of five MLAs.“We don’t have the numbers on our own and it is not advisable to field a leader of such senior stature when our numbers are not certain,” said Debabrata Saikia, leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) in the Assam Assembly.Since 1991, Dr. Singh has represented Assam in the Rajya Sabha and officially has been a tenant in a Guwahati house that belongs to Mr. Saikia’s mother, Hemo Prova Saikia. Dr. Singh is also registered as a voter in Guwahati and voted there during the Lok Sabha election held on April 23.Tamil Nadu optionWhile the Congress has the numbers to send him to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan or Punjab, there are no immediate vacancies from these States. The only State from where there would be vacancies in July is Tamil Nadu as six sitting members are retiring on July 24, including Kanimozhi of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and D. Raja of the CPI. With the DMK’s strength in the Assembly, the party can nominate at least two of the six candidates. Though there is no official word on a Congress-DMK deal, there are reports that the DMK had offered one Rajya Sabha seat to the Congress as part of the Lok Sabha alliance pact. If Ms. Kanimozhi wins from the Thoothukudi Lok Sabha constituency, her Rajya Sabha seat can be given to the Congress.The other seat has already been promised to the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, led by Vaiko.April 2020If Dr. Singh is not fielded for the July election, the next lot of vacancies come up only in April 2020 when 55 members will retire from several States, including the Congress-ruled Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.One possibility is to field Dr. Singh by making a sitting member resign from a State where the Congress already has the numbers. Another option could come up if any of the Congress Rajya Sabha members from Madhya Pradesh — Digvijaya Singh and Vivek Tankha — win their Lok Sabha seats. “There is still time and the situation will get clearer after the May 23 results and accordingly the party will take a decision,” said a senior Congress leader.