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18 outsiders in Rajya Sabha

By K.V. Prasad

NEW DELHI, JUNE 9. There are 18 members in the current Rajya Sabha who are representing States other than their known place of domicile in the House. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is among them.

Although Dr. Singh's status as an "ordinarily resident of Assam'' has been settled by the court of law, it is well known that the Prime Minister does not hail from Assam, which he has been representing in the Council of States for over a decade.

The list of the Rajya Sabha members posted on the official website of Parliament of India shows that members belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party and two Independents, besides the Congress, come under this category.

Dr. Singh was elected to the House from Assam after he was appointed the Union Finance Minister in 1991 in the Narasimha Rao Government and since then he has been representing the State.

The other prominent Congress members coming under this category are R.K. Anand, a lawyer, who was elected as the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha candidate from Jharkhand. Representing Madhya Pradesh are two other Congress members, Obaidullah Khan Azmi, who was representing Bihar till his re-election. Maulana Azmi was then a member of the Janata Dal. Similarly, the Union Law Minister, Hans Raj Bhardwaj, has been elected from Madhya Pradesh, though he has been practising law in Delhi and hails from neighbouring Haryana.

Another senior Congress leader, Karan Singh, is now representing Delhi. He was earlier elected to the House from Jammu and Kashmir, before he resigned the seat to contest elections against the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in 1999 general elections. The senior Congress leader, Ambika Soni, too has been elected from Delhi. Though she is registered as a voter in Delhi, her interest and association with the politics of Punjab are an established fact.

The former Chief Election Commissioner, M.S. Gill, who was elected during April this year from Punjab in the biennial elections has submitted a certificate that he is registered as a voter in Delhi. Technically, he can be termed as among those who have been elected after the amendment to the Representation of the People Act that did away with the domicile clause.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, too, has its share of people under this category. The former Union Ministers who represent Gujarat include Arun Jaitley and Jana Krishnamurthy.

O. Rajagopal, who hails from Kerala, represents Madhya Pradesh while Sushma Swaraj, known for her association both with Delhi and Haryana, was elected from Uttaranchal. Similarly, Arun Shourie, Balbir Punj and Dinanath Mishra, all of who are associated with journalism and Delhi, represent Uttar Pradesh in the Council of States.

The Samajwadi Party too has a share, with Abu Asim Azmi, a former chief of the party from Mumbai, and the well-known publisher of Delhi, Shahid Siddiqui, representing Uttar Pradesh.

Lalit Suri, hotelier from Delhi, was elected as an independent from Uttar Pradesh as was the industrialist, M.M. Aggarwal. Prior to his election as an independent member from Uttar Pradesh he was treasurer of the Delhi unit of the Congress.

There are other instances in the past too — with the Congress leader, R.K. Dhawan, represented Andhra Pradesh and Pranab Mukherjee and P. Shiv Shankar were elected from Gujarat, as also the former BJP chief, Bangaru Laxman. The present BJP chief, M. Venkaiah Naidu, who is from Andhra Pradesh, was a member from Karnataka whose term ended in April this year.

Incidentally, in its writ petition filed before the Supreme Court in the case filed by Kuldip Nayar, the Election Commission, said: "The question of brining about a change to the above statutory requirements for qualification to be elected to the Rajya Sabha arose in the context of several political parties at the national and State levels wanting their senior leaders in the Rajya Sabha so that they could derive the benefit of their political wisdom and expertise in public affairs. In practice, over the past 50 years, there have been several instances of parties fielding such leaders as candidates from the States other than those States to which they are known to belong. The candidates, as a result, often got their names registered as electors in those States by making declaration to the effect that they are ordinarily resident there, which to their own knowledge and belief was not a correct statement. Although this practice invited adverse comment from the general public as well as the press, it was continued by a wide cross section of political parties.''

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