RS defeat: Lesson for opposition

The comfortable victory of the NDA candidate Harivansh in the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson election last week has exposed the weaknesses and shortcomings of the opposition parties which are trying to put up a joint fight against the Narendra Modi-led BJP in the next elections. The ruling front’s victory is especially embarrassing for the opposition because the NDA is in a minority in the House. The government had, in fact, delayed the election because it did not want to lose it, but when it was finally held, it clearly outsmarted the opposition. It waited till it was confident that it could pull off a victory in an adverse situation and planned its moves accordingly. It scored in the first place with the choice of a candidate from an ally, the JD(U). A BJP candidate would not have been acceptable to some parties which voted for Harivansh. UPA candidate BK Hariprasad from the Congress did not have that acceptability with non-NDA, non-UPA parties which decided the outcome of the election.

The NDA victory was possible because parties like the BJD, the TRS and the AIADMK, which are not affiliated to the NDA, voted for its candidate and other opposition parties like the AAP, the YSR Congress and the PDP did not support the Congress candidate but abstained from voting. The BJP reached out to the “neutral” parties after creating a situation in which a party like the BJD, for example, did not have to vote for a party that it considers its rival in its state, Odisha. The BJP also managed to keep its rebellious ally, the Shiv Sena, and a disgruntled partner, the Akali Dal, on its side. The Congress could not persuade any party outside the UPA, like the AAP and the PDP, to support its candidate. The AAP had stated that it would vote for the UPA candidate if Congress president Rahul Gandhi spoke to its leader Arvind Kejriwal and sought the party’s votes. The Congress has not explained why its leader did not do that. Some MPs of parties that supported the Congress did not turn up to vote for their candidate.

The BJP was quicker and more purposeful than the Congress, which was complacent, even haughty. It is not just an embarrassment for the Congress and its allies. With the position of the deputy chairperson going to the NDA, it may lose some of the advantage of numbers it has in the Rajya Sabha. This may only be a tactical setback for it, but the important lesson is that unless the opposition unites and is seen to be standing together, it cannot pose a challenge to the BJP in 2019. 

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RS defeat: Lesson for opposition

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