The Congress-led Opposition’s hopes of mounting a successful challenge for the election to the post of deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha received a setback on Tuesday when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar reached out to some of the regional leaders to seek support for the National Democratic Alliance candidate Harivansh.
As the numbers are stacked currently, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) continues to hold the key to the election. The BJD said it will announce its decision on Wednesday, but is unlikely to vote for the Opposition’s nominee since it will be a Congress MP.
But Opposition parties were hoping that the BJD’s nine MPs might decide to remain equidistant from both the blocs, and its MPs absent themselves from the House at the time of the vote, as they had done in the Lok Sabha during the vote on the no-confidence motion.
The pitch for the Congress-led Opposition queered further with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) President M Karunanidhi passing away on Tuesday. His death would mean the DMK’s four Rajya Sabha MPs might be in Chennai when the voting takes place on Thursday.
However, an election is still in the offing with Opposition leaders requesting the Congress to field a candidate, and promising their support. The Congress was mulling fielding its Rajya Sabha MP B K Hariprasad.
Nominations need to be filed by Wednesday afternoon. There is no whip issued for the election to the post of deputy chairperson, and there are fears of defections from Opposition ranks.
For the Opposition, the Bihar CM emerged as the spoiler in chief. Nitish, who also heads the Janata Dal (United), which is an ally of the BJP, called Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao to seek the support of their respective party MPs for the NDA nominee JD (U)’s Harivansh. Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samiti has six MPs.
Apart from Nitish, BJP chief Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh also reached out to the Odisha CM. In an official statement, the BJD said the party will take a final decision on Wednesday. With the Congress its principal rival in Telangana, the TRS has said it will support the NDA nominee. From the Opposition, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar also contacted Patnaik.
Earlier in the day, there was speculation that the NCP’s Vandana Chavan might be the Opposition nominee. However, the NCP, which has only four members, decided against fielding Chavan but assured support to the Congress nominee.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the BJP has reached out to the Opposition for a consensus on the NDA’s nominee Harivansh. The Congress’ Anand Sharma said his party had a principled fight, and it will be fielding a candidate.
The BJP also reached out to its upset allies, particularly the Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal. The two parties are likely to vote for the NDA candidate. The BJP is also assured of support from AIADMK MPs, while the Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party has decided to abstain. It was earlier thought that the PDP might support the Opposition nominee.
NDA strategists were hopeful that an MP each of the Trinamool Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal would vote in favour of their nominee.
For the Opposition, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and YSR Congress Party have announced their support for the Congress candidate. The Congress had recently supported a TDP MP get elected to a parliamentary committee.
The current strength of the Rajya Sabha is 244 and the support of 123 members would be needed for a win in case of an election, if all members are present and voting.
The BJP is the largest party in the House with 73 members, followed by the Congress with 50 members.