RS deputy chairman: Harivansh likely to be NDA nominee

RS deputy chairman: Harivansh likely to be NDA nominee

Siva, Vandana Opposition front runners

A scene in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi. PTI Photo / TV GRAB

The Upper House is all set for another eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the ruling NDA and the Opposition on Thursday when they cross swords for the post of deputy chairman in the Rajya Sabha.

The Opposition has rejected the government proposal to support NDA ally JD(U)'s Harivansh for the post, which fell vacant in July after senior Congress MP P J Kurien retired from the Upper House. A top Opposition leader said two parliamentary affairs ministers “informed” them about Harivansh's candidature while discussing legislative business.

NCP's Vandana Chavan and DMK's Tiruchi Siva are the front-runners for the nomination from the Opposition camp while a final decision on the candidate will be taken on Tuesday afternoon. Sources said DMK is very keen on getting the post of deputy chairperson but senior Opposition leaders are looking at the “winnability quotient” before finalising the names.

The chances of a consensus candidate proposed by the government have been ruled out by the Opposition saying the ministers had “informed” them about their decision and it was “not a consultation”.

A "preliminary round of talks" among Opposition leaders took place on Monday evening at the office of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, hours after Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu announced the schedule for the August 9 election. The nomination papers will have to be filed before noon on August 8.

Sources said the NDA came up with the schedule as they have "arranged the numbers" in the House, where it is in a minority.

While the BJP has expressed confidence that it would get the support of fence-sitters like the TRS and even the BJD to fill the gap to reach the half-way mark of 123 in a House of 244 at present, the Opposition is wooing the 3-member Shiv Sena, which had abstained during the voting on no-trust motion against the NDA, and seeking to break a section from 13-member AIADMK MPs. The Opposition is also reaching out to the BJD and the TRS.

At present, the Opposition has a razor-thin edge over the NDA but it could change if the BJD decides to back the latter. Congress leaders told the Opposition meeting that they were “open to other parties”.

The Opposition is buoyed by the presence of TDP's CM Ramesh in the evening meeting. Incidentally, an election to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) earlier in the day gave a morale booster to the Opposition ahead of the Thursday polls where Ramesh managed to get the highest number of votes. Ramesh had contested for one of the two vacant seats from the Rajya Sabha against BJP's Bhupender Yadav and Harivansh.

While Ramesh with 106 votes and Yadav with 69 votes won, sources said, Harivansh had to settle for the third with just 26 votes in his names. A senior Opposition leader told DH, “this was a test dose.”

Opposition floor managers feel that the BJD is likely to abstain from the voting as they cannot be seen with the BJP in an election year in Odisha. Asked whether they expect votes from the AIADMK, another leader said, “all depends on the candidate”.


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