Ghulam Nabi Azad set to be opposition leader in Rajya Sabha

Senior Congress leader and former cabinet minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was on Sunday appointed as the leader of his party in the Rajya Sabha, making him virtually certain to be the next Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House.

Anand Sharma, another minister in the previous United Progressive Alliance government, was named deputy leader of the party in the house, Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said.

Since the Congress has the requisite number to claim the post of Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, 65-year-old Azad would be the natural choice.

The Congress has 67 members in the 245-member House, thereby meeting the requirement of having ten per cent of the total strength of the House to get the post of Leader of the Opposition.

The two key appointments come on the back of the party making Mallikarjun Kharge, a senior Dalit leader from Karnataka, the Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha and former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh the party's deputy leader in the Lower House.

Azad, who contested the Lok Sabha election from Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir and lost by over 60,000 votes, is a party veteran and one of the most senior members of the Rajya Sabha.

The Congress has also announced the name of its chief whip and whips in Lok Sabha, while the same for the Rajya Sabha are yet to be announced.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, one of the two Congress MPs from Madhya Pradesh, was made the chief whip, while Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda's son and lone Congress MP from the state Deepender Singh Hooda and Kerala MP K C Venugopal were appointed as whips.

Dwivedi said, "The chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party Sonia Gandhi, exercising her authorisation by the constitution of the Congress party in Parliament, has nominated Azad as leader of Congress in Rajya Sabha and Anand Sharma as deputy leader."