Friday, 21 January, 2022
HomeOpinionNumbers are stacked against BJP in election for Rajya Sabha deputy chairman

Numbers are stacked against BJP in election for Rajya Sabha deputy chairman

Text Size:

The Congress has always held the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s post, except once.  

A contest between the opposition and the ruling NDA for the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s post could set the tone for the assembly election in four states this year-end, and the much-anticipated battle in 2019.

With both sides unlikely to throw in their towel easily, the contest in Rajya Sabha can create an ugly situation where rules of fair play may not be adhered to.

At the farewell function for outgoing deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha P.J. Kurien, M. Venkaiah Naidu said, “I hope the ruling and the opposition parties will find a suitable replacement with consensus for Professor Kurien as the election of new deputy chairperson will be held soon”.

With the Monsoon session of Parliament starting 18 July, speculations are now rife in the capital’s political corridors that the election for the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman could be delayed.

But when will election be held?

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) is reportedly of the opinion that there is no time-frame for these polls, there are precedents for the delay, and the panel of vice-chairmen can very well manage the 18-day Monsoon session.

According to a senior leader of the BJP, “it all depends on the numbers, and whether the BJP is able to mobilise the strength”.

CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury voiced similar doubts, and said, “Let us see whether the elections will be held at all in this session”.

Fight for post

According to insiders, both the BJP and the Congress will do well to back a candidate from a smaller party like the Trinamool Congress, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), or the AIADMK. The two national parties, however, have not shown their cards yet.

The last time there was a close contest for Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s post was in 1992 when Najma Heptulla, then a Congress candidate, won with 128 votes. Renuka Chowdhury, an opposition candidate then, secured 95 votes. In the revolving door of politics, Heptulla later joined the BJP while Chowdhury joined the Congress in 1998.

The Congress has always held the deputy chairman’s post, except between 17 December 1969 and 1 April 1972 when B.D. Khobragade of the Republican Party of India (Khobragade) occupied the post.

BJP’s game plan

A section in the BJP wants the party to field its own candidate since it is the largest party in Rajya Sabha.

The BJP does not enjoy a majority in the House and, therefore, having its own candidate as deputy chairman will work in its favour.

If the BJP manages to win the post, it will be the fifth constitutional post, after president, vice president, prime minister and Lok Sabha speaker, which its party member will occupy.

The BJP is not ready to concede to the Opposition although the numbers are stacked against it. To win, a candidate needs 123 votes if all the 244 members of the House vote.

The BJP has 69 members in Rajya Sabha. Together with its allies and Independents, it is expecting to get around 115 votes. The party is not sure about which way the AIADMK will swing. Once the BJP is sure of winning, even if the contest is close, it will demand that the election takes place.

Opposition’s strategy

The opposition is counting on 117 votes, which includes six from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the BJP’s erstwhile ally.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee is lobbying for her candidate (Sukhendu Sekhar Ray) for the deputy chairman’s post. However, there is a catch here because the Left is unlikely to back a TMC candidate.

In this scenario, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD), K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), and Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress will hold the key. The TMC chief has a good rapport with both Patnaik and Rao.

On the other hand, the Congress, despite being the largest party in opposition, realises that it needs to be more accommodative to ensure opposition victory.

A consensus candidate

A consensus candidate, as suggested by Naidu, will be ideal in the current vicious political atmosphere. It will also send a strong message to people that the House has confidence in whosoever is elected.

It is, after all, the deputy chairman who conducts the House on most occasions along with a panel of vice-chairmen.

Yet, given the charged political scenario ahead of 2019 elections, it will be a miracle if Rajya Sabha decides on a consensus candidate.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

Most Popular