BJP wins and Cong winnows

NDA candidate Harivansh has become the new deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha after defeating the Congress's B.K. Hariprasad by 24 votes in a House where the Opposition even now has a marginally bigger presence.

By Anita Joshua and Sanjay K. Jha
  • Published 10.08.18
  •  
Harivansh after his win. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi: NDA candidate Harivansh has become the new deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha after defeating the Congress's B.K. Hariprasad by 24 votes in a House where the Opposition even now has a marginally bigger presence.

The result was a blow to the Opposition as it had hoped to use its numerical advantage in the House to retain the post vacated by the Congress's P.J. Kurien.

However, the Opposition stood a chance only if the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) stayed neutral. Neither did. They voted with the NDA, helping Harivansh win 125-101. In all, 16 MPs did not participate in the voting and two abstained.

The immediate assessment was that the Opposition had suffered a blow, and Rahul Gandhi's refusal to reach out to the AAP, which absented itself, drew flak.

But Congress sources are reading it differently, insisting that the outcome helped expose some regional parties that are considered potential partners in a federal front. These parties have now proved that they are guided more by political expediency than the ideological commitment against the BJP, the Congress sources said.

"We need to realise how some regional parties have behaved in the past four years and the distinct possibility of their alignment with the BJP at any juncture, pre-poll or post-poll. The message is clear: the Congress is the pivot around which an anti-BJP struggle can be built," a Congress leader claimed.

The first words Harivansh, a former editor and a Janata Dal United MP, got to say after sitting on the chair at 12.59pm were: "The House stands adjourned to meet again at 2pm."

The opening words drew a round of robust laughter from across the floor after leaders of all the parties raised a toast to the first first-time member to be elected deputy chairperson.

The result was another example of the kind of micro-management the BJP leadership undertakes to win elections.

The polling saw former finance minister and leader of the House Arun Jaitley return to public life after his kidney transplant, which had confined him to his residence with the threat of infection. In the House, too, he indicated to all, including the Prime Minister, not to approach him for even a handshake.

While the NDA victory was a foregone conclusion from last night when the BJD decided to vote for Harivansh, the BJP worked on a couple of other smaller parties to turn them in its favour or abstain.

The YSR Congress Party announced in the morning that it would abstain, after maintaining till Wednesday night that it would vote for the Opposition candidate. The INLD's lone member voted with the NDA.

Two rounds of counting had to be undertaken on the electronic console given to each member as the first attempt was overturned because of a technical error.