Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Election: Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called Naveen Patnaik on Monday.
New Delhi: A late evening announcement by Biju Janata Dal's Naveen Patnaik has given the ruling BJP-led national coalition's candidate a clear edge in the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman's election to be held on Thursday morning. Mr Patnaik's promise of support to Harivansh Narayan Singh, a first-time lawmaker from Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United, places the NDA in a comfortable position vis--vis Congress lawmaker BK Hariprasad, the candidate supported by opposition parties in the 244-member house. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah have worked the phones over the last few days to reach out to allies and friendly parties outside the alliance to ensure a win. It could be the NDA's first in the Rajya Sabha where it has been dependent on the opposition Congress to pass legislations.
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"Our party will support the JDU candidate in the Rajya Sabha's deputy chairman election," Mr Patnaik said on Wednesday, attributing the decision to his party's conviction that there should be unanimity in appointment to constitutional posts.
Mr Patnaik said PM Modi, Amit Shah and Nitish Kumar had also phoned him to seek support of his party's nine lawmakers. The BJD had skipped voting in last month's no-trust vote against the government in the Lok Sabha, reportedly at the BJP's request.
The BJP's estranged ally, the Shiv Sena has decided to go along with the NDA candidate this time. Senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who is frequently seen attacking the BJP, will move one of the four motions proposing Harivansh Narayan Singh's name. The Sena has said it was supporting the NDA candidate as this is an "apolitical" post.
The majority mark in the 244-member Rajya Sabha is 123. But some parties could abstain, pulling down the majority mark.
The Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party says its 2 members will stay away from the election. Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party has also threatened to do the same unless Congress president Rahul Gandhi calls up Chief Minister Kejriwal to seek support of its three members. If both stay away, the majority mark could drop to 120.
BJP floor managers say the NDA candidate would, apart from the NDA's 91 votes, get support from AIADMK's 13 members, Telangana Rashtra Samithi's 6 members, four nominated and independent members.The NDA is also expecting support from the YSR Congress's 2 members.
"We have numbers on our side and Harivanshji will comfortably win the election tomorrow. It would have been better if the deputy chairman was elected unanimously," Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel said.
The opposition camp is seen to have the support of various parties, including Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, Left parties, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Nationalist Congress Party.
An addition to the opposition camp is Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party, which exited the NDA earlier this year but had been perceived to have been cagey about being seen to be working too closely with the Congress.
Former minister Anand Sharma of the Congress insists the opposition had a "formidable" candidate. "The NDA, as such did not have majority, does not have majority. They have gone well beyond the fold of the NDA to get votes," he said.