The opposition's big unity test in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday ended in a big "F" -- what's seen as the reason is the Congress failure to co-opt Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party and Andhra Pradesh's YSR Congress. But a close look at the list of absentees -- even among the parties on its side -- provides another reason. No less than 16 lawmakers from seven parties had skipped the voting for various reasons. Of these, three belonged to AAP. The other 13 were from parties committed to voting against the government, including the Congress.
The opposition managed to get 101 votes, compared to 125 on the government's side. Abstentions by the YSR Congress and the absence of Mehbooba Mufti's People's Democratic Party and AAP had brought down the majority mark to 114.
The opposition was hoping to get at least 118 votes -- not enough for a majority if everyone was present, but a better showing. In contrast, the BJP ensured zero absence - even union minister Arun Jaitley, who had been recuperating at home after a transplant surgery, came to parliament and voted.
In the opposition camp, two of the absent lawmakers were from the DMK - among them Kanimozhi, daughter of party patriarch M Karunanidhi who died yesterday.
Two were from Trinamool Congress, one of them KD Singh; three including Jaya Bachchan and Beni Prasad Verma from the Samajwadi Party and three, including Subbarami Reddy from the Congress. Two of the Congress lawmakers are unwell. It is not known why the rest skipped the voting.
The no show by AAP and abstention by the YSR Congress have been blamed on the Congress by the two parties.
AAP had put a phone call from Rahul Gandhi to Arvind Kejriwal as a pre-condition for its support. When that didn't happen, it declared that it would stay out of the election.
The YSR Congress said the choice was between the "devil and the deep blue sea... so we have chosen to not go with either". But party leader Vijay Sai Reddy also said they "would have supported a candidate chosen by a third party, not the Congress".
The choice of the Congress candidate BK Hariprasad was a last-minute measure on Tuesday after Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party refused to project its candidate. The party said they would not field anyone unless Naveen Patnaik and Shiv Sena were supporting them.
The Congress, despite having 50 lawmakers, had not projected a candidate as a signal of its commitment to stitching up a front against the BJP for next year's general election.