Dy chair poll exposes faultlines in Opposition unity

Newly-elected Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha Harivansh Narayan Singh greets the house during the Monsoon session of Parliament, in New Delhi. PTI photo

The victory of NDA candidate Harivansh Singh in the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman election has brought to the fore the fault lines in Opposition unity harming the Congress expectations for the 2019 general elections.

Two Opposition parties, the BJD and TRS, chose to vote for NDA. Two more YSR Congress and AAP MPs ended up helping it by abstaining from voting, while one NDA ally, the Shiv Sena, which had kept breathing fire and brimstone against the BJP ended up voting for the alliance nominee.

This is the second occasion when NDA managed to become 'NDA plus' during the voting on the floor of the House against the Opposition parties. On July 21, the No Trust Motion was moved by erstwhile NDA ally TDP against the government, which was defeated with 325 votes against 126. But last time the support from non-NDA allies was mainly in form of either absenting or abstaining from voting.

This time the recalcitrant NDA ally Shiv Sena became one of the proposers for the NDA nominee and voted for it, in contrast to its stand during trust vote which it had boycotted.

BJP also managed to get support from unlikely quarters like Biju Janata Dal (BJD), besides its non-ally but friendly AIADMK. The developments in Rajya Sabha on Thursday in a way also indicate the future political course of these parties and could be a worrying sign for the Opposition. 

While Congress managed to bring arch rivals BSP and SP and the Left and Trinamool Congress together to vote against NDA nominee, YSR Congress refused to back the Opposition which had the support of TDP. TDP and YSR Congress are rivals in Andhra Pradesh politics. The indication is that state politics rivalry could also upset the Opposition unity applecart. BJD's open support to NDA nominees also clearly indicate that fence sitters can take either side even in 2019.

BJD, the regional party from Odisha, which was being roped in for the formation of a non-BJP non-Congress federal front for the next Lok Sabha polls, chose to vote the NDA nominee after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had a telephonic talk with his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik.

The reasons cited were because the “Congress candidate was the AICC in-charge of Odisha and vitriolic in his statements against the BJD” and that BJD believes that there should be unanimity when it comes to constitutional post. Another reason was advanced that it chose to vote for JDU candidate as both JDU and BJD has an ideological bonding as both emerged from the Jay Prakash Narayan movement.

This happens when the Congress is being increasingly replaced by the BJP as the main rival of BJD in Odisha.  BJD has been fiercely maintaining its "no truck with either Congres or BJP" policy so far.

The spat followed soon with Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee Niranjan Patnaik on Twitter to attack BJD.

“BJD supporting the NDA candidate for RajyaSabha Deputy Chairman election isn't surprising at all, that's what allies are supposed to do. It's a deal to stop CBI from exposing the BJD's misdeeds. This strengthens the ongoing rumours of seat sharing discussions between BJP & BJD,” he tweeted. 

AAP, which refused to vote for NDA candidate, refrained from voting after its demand that Rahul Gandhi should speak to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and seek AAP’s vote for Opposition candidate was not fulfilled. Later, AAP leader Sanjay Singh trained guns on Congress describing it as “biggest hurdle to opposition unity” and wondering how Rahul Gandhi will bring larger Opposition unity if he is willing to even to speak to leaders seek support.

Significantly, the TRS which had refrained from voting in favour of the government during the trust vote last month, chose to shed inhibitions this time and voted for the NDA nominee “after Nitish Kumar spoke to us” as its leader K Keshav Rao said. Both BJD and TRS taking a totally different stand from Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has not gone unnoticed.

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Dy chair poll exposes faultlines in Opposition unity

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