Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge will replace Ghulam Nabi Azad as Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, sources told news agency PTI. Azad, Congress' Rajya Sabha MP from Jammu and Kashmir, is set to retire from the Upper House on February 15 after serving as the leader of the opposition for over six years since June 8, 2014. Jammu and Kashmir does not have an Assembly currently after it was made a Union Territory with the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019.
The Congress has written to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for appointing Kharge to the post of leader of opposition after Azad's retirement.
Kharge, a Dalit leader from Karnataka, was the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha from 2014 to 2019. The grand old party could not get the leader of opposition's post in the previous and the current Lok Sabha as its numbers were less than the mandated 10 per cent of the total number of seats in the Lower House for claiming the post.
Kharge was earlier popularly known as “solillada Saradara” (a leader without defeat). But he faced his first electoral loss in his political life against BJP’s Umesh Jadhav in Gulbarga Gulbarga parliamentary seat by a margin of 95,452 votes during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The Congress then nominated him to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka.
A nine-time MLA and two-term Lok Sabha member, he had served as Congress floor leader in the previous Lok Sabha, and also as Union Railway and Labour Minister during the UPA government. Kharge, who is 78-years-old, has also served as minister during several Congress governments in the state, and as KPCC President and Leader of opposition in the Karnatak Assembly in the past. His son, Priyank Kharge, is currently MLA representing Chittapur constituency, and had served as minister during the previous Congress and coalition governments.