The comfortable victory of the NDA nominee Harivansh Narayan Singh for the post of deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, having polled 125 votes in favour and 105 against with two abstentions, is a shot in the arm for the ruling coalition. Harivansh is a first-time member of Parliament and is from Janata Dal-United (JD-U).
By the same token, it is a defeat for the joint opposition candidate and thrice member of Parliament B K Hariprasad in a House in which the ruling conglomerate does not command a majority and the Opposition did not prove united enough to force a win.
Coming as it has at a time when the Lok Sabha elections are less than a year away, and close on the heels of a morale-boosting NDA win in the unsuccessful no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition against the BJP-led government at the Centre in the last session, the win is indeed significant for the Narendra Modi government.
That the JD-U nominee was accepted as the NDA candidate reflected the compromise the BJP was forced to make to tilt the scales definitively in its favour. Tactically, this was an unexceptionable move, considering that the NDA lacked the requisite numbers and the Opposition unity was being much touted and was waiting to be punctured.
In the process, the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal were initially sore with the BJP for having chosen the nominee from a party that had joined forces with the NDA only recently. That they stuck to voting for the NDA nominee stemmed from their realisation that JD-U support in the Upper House was sorely needed for the guaranteed success of the NDA in the prestigious election.
The post of the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman has been lying vacant since the retirement of PJ Kurien on July 1 last.
The clincher was the enlistment of support to their candidate by the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) which had walked out of the Lok Sabha on the no-trust vote signifying its equi-distance from the Congress and the BJP.
Now that the BJD has decided to swim with the NDA, there is a strong likelihood that even in the Lok Sabha polls due next year, the party of Naveen Patnaik may go with the ruling combine. This is despite the fact that the main challenge to the ruling BJD in Odisha in the polls ahead is from the BJP.
Significantly, Patnaik was won over to their side by telephonic persuasion by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Sometime ago, Nitish himself was dilly-dallying on whether to stay with the BJP or go back to the UPA but was wooed back by the NDA.
The opposition camp drew support from the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the DMK, Left parties, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the NCP and Telugu Desam.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s three members decided to stay away when the Congress failed to approach the party.
The BJP propped up its numbers with BJD’s nine, AIADMK’s 13 and TRS’ six besides the NDA constituents.
Evidently, the Opposition is not gaining traction despite all the hoopla around it. It has yet to come up with an alternative blueprint for action and is distant from agreeing on a joint candidate to challenge Narendra Modi. By present indications, it could well leave the selection to after the elections which would grievously damage its cause.
While the Congress is hoping to lead its own front, regional parties are looking at floating their own front as a third force. The defeat in the deputy leader of Rajya Sabha elections has further soured the pitch for anti-Modi forces.