The government had an easy victory in Election For Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Post.
New Delhi: The government had an easy victory in the election for the post of the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman, as the opposition came up short in a contest that was seen as a test for its unity in the run-up to the 2019 national election. The government had 125 votes against the opposition's 101 in a house with a majority mark of 114. In the gripping build-up over the last few days, PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah worked the phones and won over fence-sitters like Naveen Patnaik. The opposition votes fell below the expected 110 as lawmakers - three from Congress, two from the DMK, three from Samajwadi Party and two from Trinamool Congress - stayed out.
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First-time lawmaker Harivansh from Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United won the battle against the opposition candidate, Congress' BK Hariprasad. The choice of Mr Singh was seen as the BJP's outreach to the ally in Bihar where the partnership has been under strain.
Congratulating Harivansh, a former journalist who uses only one name, PM Modi said, "Harivansh ji is well read and has written a lot. He has served society for years". Then in a jovial tone, he added, "With him (Mr Singh) in the Rajya Sabha, things are now hari bharose, hari kripa".
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.
Over the last two days, BJP chief Amit Shah had also diligently worked the phones, managing 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".
On the other side, the absence of a phone call from Rahul Gandhi made Arvind Kejriwal decide to boycott the election. "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 114.
Besides Arvind Kejriwal's party, the YSR Congress and Mehbooba Mufti's PDP stayed out. Ms Mufti, whose alliance with the BJP ended recently, had initially indicated that she would support the opposition.
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 opposition was also expecting the support of YSR Congress. The party said the choice was between the "devil and the deep blue sea... so we have chosen to not go with either". Party leader Vijay Sai Reddy also added that they "would have supported a candidate chosen by a third party, not the Congress".
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, "In elections, someone wins and someone loses. But the Deputy Chairman is no longer a part of any single party. He belongs to the country now."