Opposition loses the battle for RS Deputy Chairman

NDA candidate and JD(U) MP Harivansh was elected the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, defeating Opposition candidate and Congress MP B.K. Hariprasad.

The final tally of votes showed 125 for Mr. Harivansh and 101 for Mr. Hariprasad. Four Congress MPs had polled their vote twice. They sent in paper ballots also, thinking that their votes had not been electronically recorded.

This is the first significant victory scored by the ruling NDA in the Rajya Sabha, where the Opposition is in a majority, and could pave the way for an assertive BJP. With 73 MPs, the BJP is now the largest party in the House.

Modi pitches in

The ruling party’s seriousness in getting the post was underscored by the fact that Union Minister Arun Jaitley, recuperating from renal failure, attended the House for the first time to register his vote.

In his speech felicitating Mr. Harivansh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “While the outcome of the election was known, yet there was a contest as per procedures and the new members got training in how to vote in the House.” The comments summed up the much awaited election, which started out as a thriller but ended as a one-sided match when the Biju Janata Dal (with nine members) decided to throw its weight behind the NDA nominee.

BJD springs a surprise

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s decision took his own MPs by surprise, since the party has been carefully walking the middle path between the ruling party and the Opposition bloc.

The Opposition came to know of Mr. Patnaik’s decision as late as Tuesday afternoon when the NCP called the Chief Minister to seek his support for its candidate Vandana Chavan.

However, none of the other Opposition parties, including the Congress, made a serious effort to woo the BJD. West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee, who was leading the co-ordination effort, too, did not take the step.

On the other hand, Mr. Modi personally spoke to Mr. Patnaik, and this was followed by calls from BJP president Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

A total of 16 members were absent, most from the Opposition ranks, while the treasury benches had full attendance.

Three Aam Aadmi Party MPs remained absent since Congress president Rahul Gandhi failed to call Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal, a condition set by the AAP for supporting Mr. Hariprasad.

Three Congress MPs — T. Subbarami Reddy, Viplove Thakur and Ranee Narah — were absent. While the first two could not attend for health reasons, Ms. Narah switched over to the BJP.

Trinamool MPs K.D. Singh and Manas Ranjan Bhunia were absent. Two DMK MPs, including Kanimozhi, could not participate because of the death of party leader M. Karunanidhi.

The Samajwadi Party had three absentees — Jaya Bachchan, Beni Prasad Verma and C.P.S. Yadav. Two MPs of the recently estranged NDA ally, Peoples Democratic Party, which had initially signalled support for the Opposition, also stayed away, taking the total number of absentees in the House to 12.

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