Nearly two weeks after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA government defeated the no-confidence motion in Parliament, the Opposition parties led by the Congress will try to showcase its unity yet again, this time during the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman election on Thursday.
Congress MP B K Hariprasad, who has been chosen as the opposition candidate, will look forward to retaining the party's post as the deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha. Currently, the Congress is the largest opposition party, having 50 seats in the upper house of Parliament.
The NDA, which is a minority in the Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, fielded Harivansh Narayan Singh of the JD-U for the August 9 election. The election will be taking place on the penultimate day of the ongoing Monsoon session of Parliament.
Meanwhile, clearing their stance for Thursday's Rajya Sabha election, BJD president and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that he had a conversation with Nitish Kumar and will be supporting JD-U candidate Narayan Singh for the post.
While most experts have earlier predicted a win for the opposition, BJD's decision to support the JD-U hinted a surprise victory for the ruling NDA.
Nitish Kumar has spoken to me. We will be supporting JD(U) candidate for the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman elections: Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik pic.twitter.com/rLnPRUqW8t— ANI (@ANI) August 8, 2018
Patnaik's decision came hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned him, seeking the support of nine BJD MPs to the NDA candidate - Harivansh Narayan Singh from the JD-U.
However, both the NDA and Opposition are at present on a desperate attempt to secure the numbers required to get their candidate elected to the deputy chairperson post. The current strength of Rajya Sabha is 244 and support of 123 members will be needed for a win in the House.
NDA currently has 90 MPs in Rajya Sabha, 32 short of the halfway mark - BJP (73), Bodoland People’s Front (1), JD(U) (6), Nominated (4), Naga People’s Front (1), Republican Party of India (A) (1), Shiromani Akali Dal (3) and Sikkim Democratic Front (1).
The united opposition, on the other hand, has 112 MPs in Rajya Sabha, 10 short of halfway mark - Aam Aadmi Party (3), Trinamool Congress (13), Bahujan Samaj Party (4), Communist Party of India (2), Communist Party of India (M) (5), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (4), Congress (50), Indian Union Muslim League (1), JD(S) (1), Kerala Congress (M) (1), Nationalist Congress Party (4), Rashtriya Janata Dal (5), Samajwadi Party (13), Telegu Desam Party (6).
The high-profile post in the Rajya Sabha has been lying vacant, ever since Congress leader PJ Kurien stepped down from his position in June.
Following Kurien's retirement, Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had announced the date of the election, suggesting that the deputy chairperson should be elected by consensus. The MPs were directed to file the nomination papers before noon on August 8.
Thursday's Parliament session is also significant as the ongoing Monsoon Session may mark the first appearance of Union Minister Arun Jaitley, who stepped aside as finance minister to undergo a kidney transplant.