Union Social Justice and Empowerment minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot has replaced Arun Jaitley as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s leader of the house in the Rajya Sabha. Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal succeeds cabinet colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is now a Lok Sabha member, as the deputy leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha.
The BJP on Wednesday announced its parliamentary party executive committee with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its leader in the Lok Sabha and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh as the deputy leader. There is no change here from the previous Lok Sabha despite BJP chief Amit Shah having debuted in the Lok Sabha.
Jaitley, a Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh, was the BJP’s leader in the house during the duration of the previous Modi government. While the Rajya Sabha is a continuous house and not dissolved, Jaitley is convalescing and has already opted out of the union council of ministers. He is also unlikely to be able to attend Parliament. His current Rajya Sabha term ends in 2024.
Gehlot, 71, is from the Dalit community. His election as the party’s leader of the house in the Rajya Sabha is the BJP’s effort at strengthening its outreach towards the Dalits, party sources said. Gehlot comes from a humble background. He started life as a labourer at Grasim Industries, Birla Udyog, Nagda Junction in Ujjain.
Subsequently, Gehlot was active in the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, which is affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He has been a three-term Madhya Pradesh legislator and a minister in the state government. Gehlot is also a four-term Lok Sabha member and two-term Rajya Sabha member.
Union minister Smriti Irani's induction in the BJP's parliamentary party executive committee is evidence of her increased stature within the party after she defeated Congress president Rahul Gandhi from the Amethi parliamentary constituency. Apart from Irani, other special invitees from Lok Sabha to the BJP's parliamentary party executive are Nitin Gadkari, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Arjun Munda, Narendra Singh Tomar and Jual Oram. In Rajya Sabha, special invitees are J P Nadda, Om Prakash Mathur, Nirmala Sitharaman, Dharmedndra Pradhan and Prakash Javadekar.
The first meeting of the newly constituted BJP parliamentary party executive is scheduled for Sunday. The government has also called an all-party meeting on the same day in the morning which will be chaired by the prime minister.
The session starts on Monday.