THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 8 AUGUST, 2018
JD(U)HN Singh Vs Congress BK Hariprasad
NEW DELHI: The Congress stepped in with lawmaker BK Hariprasad as the Opposition candidate for the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson after the regional parties that were initially approached Telugu Desam, DMK, Nationalist Congress Party, were unable to come up with a candidate. Most of the Opposition parties have agreed to support Hariprasad in the election tomorrow, although the numbers currently are too close for comfort.
Hariprasad, a Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka, told The Citizen that the party had decided to give the choice to the regional groups but that did not work for a variety of reasons. Soft Spoken and cautious, he made it clear that the numbers could favour the Opposition but yes, it was at present a wafer thin margin.
The Shiv Sena, despite all the noise, will stay with the BJP along with the Akali Dal. The Biju Janata Dal chief and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is currently in Mumbai and will take a call on his return to Bhubaneshwar. But given the party’s stand against the BJP and the Congress, the word out is that the BJD might not abstain---as the opposition was hoping---but support the Janata Dal(U) candidate for the post, that is Harivansh Narayan Singh, the former editor of Prabhat Khabarand, a well known newspaper circulated in Bihar and Jharkhand. He is a first time MP of JD(U).
The choice of candidate by the BJP is significant, as it is expected to eat precisely into the regional votebank. The BJD that would not have voted for a BJP candidate will now in all probability support JD(U)’s Narayan. As will the AIADMK. This combined vote gives the NDA a tally of 123 votes.
It is precisely for this reason that the Congress was searching for a regional Opposition candidate for the deputy chairperson’s post. Aware of the anti BJP, anti-Congress positioning of political parties like the BJD, the party president Rahul Gandhi had given up all claims to the post, urging the smaller parties to field a candidate instead. The NCP had come closest to suggesting a candidate, namely Vandana Chavan, but backed out when the BJD and the Shiv Sena made it clear that they would not support her.
The inability of the other opposition parties to field a candidate left the Congress with no choice, with Hariprasad seen as a low key, but popular legislator. As he said, “as far as numbers are concerned I cannot say, but we are trying our best.”
All the main opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha have supported his candidature. The anti-BJP front is now preparing for the election tomorrow, leaving little to chance. The Opposition backing Hariprasad has 117 seats at the moment. The figure includes TDP. But efforts are on to ensure that Arvind Kerjiwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehboob Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party remain with the opposition on this issue. Thee DMK is also expected to support the Congress candidate. This together will bring the opposition tally to 126 seats, if no one abstains. YSR Congress has refused to support the BJP, but might not be averse to supporting the JD(U). However, the Congress and other parties are in touch and this will add another two to the tally.
A keen election and important for the Opposition to keep a foot in the Rajya Sabha where it still enjoys some clout. In the Lok Sabha the treasury benches hold sway.
The government is counting on support from the AIADMK, K Chandrashekar Rao's TRS and Naveen Patnaik, which will give it 123 votes. To win in the 245-member house, a candidate needs 123 votes, but abstention will bring down the majority mark.
BJP-ally Akali Dal too confirmed today that they will be supporting the government's candidate for the election tomorrow.
The opposition has 117 seats -- including Chandrababu Naidu's TDP. Arvind Kejriwal's AAP and Mehbooba Mufti's PDP, which between them have five seats, have indicated that they will support the opposition candidate. Support is also expected from the DMK, which has 4 seats. Altogether it gives the opposition 126 seats. The figure will increase by 2 more if the YSR Congress, which has refused to support the BJP, votes for it.