Divisions in the ranks of the opposition helped National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh score a comfortable victory in the election for Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman on Thursday defeating Opposition nominee B.K. Hariprasad.
In a development billed as one of the several battles ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Harivansh, a Janata Dal-United (JD-U) member and a veteran journalist, secured 125 votes as against 105 of Hariprasad in a House of 244 besides the Chairman. Only 230 members were present.
The easy sailing for the ruling coalition nominee came on the back of support from the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Telangana Rashtra Samitai (TRS), both of which fight the BJP in Odisha and Telangana respectively but extended their hand of friendship in Delhi. As expected, 13 MPs of the AIADMK also backed the NDA candidate. BJD and TRS have 9 and 6 members respectively.
However, the Opposition numbers got a boost with the support of the TDP (6) which decided to back Hariprasad, apparently to return the favours extended by Congress which backed the no-confidence motion moved by the TDP at the start of the monsoon session.
Roughly, the BJP and its allies account for 112 MPs while the Opposition that includes parties like BJD and TRS account for 113.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken to Chief Ministers Naveen Patnaik (Odisha) and K. Chandrasekhara Rao (Telangana) seeking support for Harivansh.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), with three members, abstained with party leaders saying the Congress did not involve them in consultations while the YSR Congress party with two MPs also abstained, raising the margin of victory.
Out of 50 Congress members, two were absent while one of the 12 TMC members absented. The SP has 13 members, of whom two were absent. Of the four members of DMK, whose chief M. Karunanidhi died just two days ago, two were absent. Two members of PDP also absented.
Following his election, Harivansh was conducted to his seat, which is beside the Leader of Opposition, by Leader of the House Arun Jaitley, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar and Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Modi congratulated Harivansh on his victory and Harivansh as a "well read" person who "has written a lot".
"He has served the society for years," the Prime Minister added. "I also want to congratulate B.K. Hariprasad for being a part of the election."
He said there were two "Haris" in the race and hoped that with Harivansh victory, there will be "harikripa "(God's blessings) in the House.
Jaitley, who attended the Rajya Sabha for the first time in the ongoing monsoon session after a kidney transplant surgery he had a few months ago, also congratulated Harivansh.
Members cutting across party lines felicitated the new deputy chair.
Azad expressed the hope that Harivansh will discharge his duties in a non-partisan manner and work for all sections of the society irrespective of caste, creed and religion.
He hoped his experience in journalism would benefit the House.
After Harivansh's speech, Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu invited him to conduct the House proceedings.
"The House stands adjourned to meet again at 2 p.m.," Harivansh said in his first words from the Chair. IANS