What the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Poll Result Reveals?
The elections for the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha ended with a decisive victory for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Its candidate, Janata Dal (United) MP, Harivansh, got 125 votes, while the Opposition candidate, the Congress’s BK Hariprasad, had to settle for 105 votes. The win is striking, for the government does not have an outright majority in the Upper House. It has had to suffer policy and legislative setbacks here, and the Opposition has often, through sheer numbers and aggression, put the treasury benches on the defensive. The Rajya Sabha deputy chair position was earlier held by the Congress’s PJ Kurien. The election was also happening in a climate in which senior Opposition leaders have pushed the idea of a ‘Mahagathbandhan’. All of this should have enabled the Opposition to score a victory here.
Yet it did not happen. And in that lies a fundamental reality of contemporary Indian politics. On one side is a fiercely competitive Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which takes every election battle intensely. It has a deep desire to win and it is willing to do what is required to achieve its objective. In this case, it kept the alliance together, offering the seat to JD (U), which has been a little unhappy at not getting space in the power structure. It brought on board the Akali Dal, which was unhappy at a leader from its ranks not getting the position. It reached out to a bitter Shiv Sena. At the same time, it also went beyond the allies and got the support of AIADMK, the Biju Janata Dal, and Telangana Rashtra Samithi. The fact that PM Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar personally called Odisha CM Navin Patnaik reflects the seriousness with which they took the election. It showed in the numbers.
On the other hand was a foundering Opposition. The election announcement appeared to have taken them by surprise. It first appeared to narrow down a Nationalist Congress Party candidate, but when the NCP realised that it may not be able to muster the numbers, it backed out. The Congress then put up a candidate, but in a sign of the challenge, any grand alliance faces, key regional players were uneasy with backing the party. The Congress leadership invested little in the election, with Rahul Gandhi not reaching out to potential allies and swing forces. The candidate, Hariprasad, too, did not have links across party lines to get support. So neither was there adequate preparation, nor institutional investment by the major parties, nor individual stature to pull numbers together. If this is a precursor to what the Opposition has in mind in an election year, it should be deeply worried about 2019.