Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday submitted his nomination papers for a fifth term in the Rajya Sabha during a whirlwind visit to Assam, which was marked by protests by Opposition groups.
Singh travelled to Guwahati in a special flight for a three-hour visit to apply for re-nomination to Parliament’s Upper House. The PM’s term as RS member ends on June 14. Before he filed his nomination, he first chaired a meeting of the Congress Legislature party in the State Assembly.
Thereafter, surrounded by senior Congress leaders, he filed four sets of documents to the returning officer, Assam Assembly’s Principal Secretary G P Das, which was endorsed by 40 state legislators. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Ranee Narah and Assam Pradesh Congress president Bubhaneshwar Kalita accompanied the PM.
The presence of Digivijay Singh, the AICC in-charge of Assam, seems to be a deliberate attempt to project a united front. This joint journey comes after a series of reports in the media about a drift between the Prime Minister’s office and the party over the resignations of the two cabinet ministers. Besides the PM’s seat, there is another RS seat which is going to be vacant due to the completion of the term of Asom Gana Parishad MP Kumar Deepak Das. With 79 members in the 126-member State Assembly, the second seat will also be bagged by Congress, but it has not yet been able to make up its mind.
The front-runner is Hemo Prabha Saikia, the widow of former Assam chief minister Hiteswar Saikia. The chief minister has sent a list of 10 candidates to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, which apparently has Saikia at the top. While the Election Commission had notified the polls on May 13, the last date of filing nominations is May 20. Speaking to the media, the PM expressed gratitude to the state for allowing him to its representative in the upper house. Noting that he has been an Assam MP for 21 years, Singh said: “I shall endeavour to accelerate the development of Assam so that poverty and diseases are eliminated from the state in the next 10 years.”