BJP-led NDA’s candidate Harivansh was elected Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha today (Thursday, August 9) as the Opposition failed to notch up the numbers.
Pitted against Congress MP BK Hariprasad, Harivansh as the government’s nominee for the post bagged 125 votes. BK Haiprasad got 105 votes in a house with a majority mark of 119.
In the run up to the election, the Opposition camp that was hoping to win lost out due to several factors, not the least being a lack of political management skill and outreach.
Over the last few days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah worked the phones and won over fence-sitters like Naveen Patnaik. Victory in what would have been a close fought election, was brought within the government’s reach with nine crucial votes from the BJD. It was PM Modi’s phone call that helped Naveen Patnaik make up his mind to support the government, sources said.
BJP chief Amit Shah had also diligently worked on garnering support. He managed to get the support of miffed allies Akali Dal and Shiv Sena, who initially decided to abstain. Yesterday, the Sena said it would go along with the NDA candidate, since the post was ‘apolitical’.
The opposition votes fell below the expected 110 as five lawmakers – two from the DMK and one from Trinamool Congress – and the YSR Congress stayed out.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) with its three MPs also chose to abstain after the Congress chose not to seek its support. “If Rahul Gandhi can hug Narendra Modi, why cannot he ask Arvind Kejriwal for support to his party’s candidate,” said party leader Sanjay Singh.
The majority mark in the 244-member Rajya Sabha is 123, but abstentions pulled it down to 119.
Besides Arvind Kejriwal’s party, the YSR Congress and Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP stayed out. Mufti, whose alliance with the BJP ended recently, had initially indicated that she would support the opposition.
The opposition was also expecting the support of YSR Congress. But party leader Vijayasai Reddy said, “We have decided to abstain from voting for Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman elections. Both Congress and BJP have not fulfilled the promises made to Andhra Pradesh.”
The opposition camp had the support of Trinamool Congress, DMK, Left parties, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Nationalist Congress Party. A recent addition was Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, which exited the NDA earlier this year.
The position of Deputy Chairman is significant as s/he assumes charge in the absence of the Chairperson/Vice-President. It is also critical to ensure smooth running of the Rajya Sabha.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was present during voting, walked up to Singh to congratulate him after the process was complete. “He had earlier run a column on how the parliamentarians of the country should work. Little did he know that he will one day be the Deputy Chairperson of the House. We all will benefit from his experience,” Modi said.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Congress member Ghulam Nabi Azad also congratulated Harivansh Singh.
The post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman has been lying vacant since the retirement of P J Kurien on July 1.
Chairman Venkaiah Naidu will host a breakfast tomorrow in the honour of Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh.
After his election, the newly-elected Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh addressed the House and, extending gratitude to all members, said, “Now that I have been designated to this role, I belong to neither of the party. But I take this opportunity to thank the party that has given me this opportunity. I would also like to thank PM Modi and Arun Jaitley who came to Rajya Sabha today.”
Rajya Sabha Chairperson and Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu also congratulated Harivansh Narayan Singh on his selection for the post of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chair. “For all those who think that I get emotional in the House, let me assure that Harivansh is a calm person. It is exemplary that he has been elected for the post despite being a first-time lawmaker. Congratulate the House for completing the election before the monsoon session completed. Being a Chairperson I can suggest to him that we should neither look left nor right and work only for the country.”
After the results of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson were announced, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was quoted by ANI as saying, “Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.”
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, addressing the House, welcomed Arun Jaitley’s return after a brief illness and congratulated Harivansh Singh for winning the post of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman. “In elections, some on wins and someone loses. But the Deputy Chairman is no longer a part of any single party. He belongs to the country now. In fact, I believe that Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the House should in-fact support the Opposition as they are more undernourished than that of the ruling party.”