New Delhi: The Janata Dal (United) has decided that there is no need for Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Harivansh to step down from the post even though he was elected as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nominee — a combine his party is no longer part of.
“The party has had internal discussions on this and it has decided that there is no need for Harivansh to step down. The post belongs to the House. The decision has already been conveyed to him,” JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh told ThePrint.
Even as a new government took charge in Bihar last week under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is now serving his eighth term on the post, all eyes in Delhi were on Harivansh. Speculation about his fate had been rife, especially given that the Rajya Sabha numbers have become a little more evenly stacked ever since Nitish Kumar’s exit from the NDA.
ThePrint sought a comment from Harivansh via calls and WhatsApp messages, and also left messages with an aide, but did not get a response. This article will be updated when a response is received.
Asked about the JD(U)’s decision, a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which helms the NDA, said on condition of anonymity: “If JD(U) has taken this position, it’s okay. But the right person to talk about this would be the Parliamentary affairs minister.”
ThePrint sought comments from both Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi and Minister of State V. Muraleedharan over calls and text messages. This article will be updated when a response is received from either of them.
How RS numbers stack up
The Rajya Sabha’s current strength is 237 with eight vacancies — three to be nominated, four from Jammu & Kashmir, and one from Tripura.
The halfway mark in the House is 119 — the crucial number for the passage of bills.
If Rajya Sabha’s five JD(U) Members of Parliament, including Harivansh, side with the opposition, then the latter’s numbers come to 107 — Congress (31), Trinamool Congress (13), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Aam Aadmi Party (10 each), Communist Party of India (Marxist) and JD (U) (5 each), Telangana Rashtra Samithi (7), Rashtriya Janata Dal (6), Samajwadi Party (3), Nationalist Congress Party (4), Shiv Sena (3), Communist Party of India (2), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (2), Janata Dal (Secular), Indian Union Muslim League, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Kerala Congress (M) (one MP each), and an Independent.
The BJP currently has 91 MPs in the Upper House, which has nine nominated MPs. Along with the smaller NDA constituents and independents, the NDA’s number comes to around 114 MPs. The Biju Janata Dal and YSR Congress, which have mostly voted with the government, have nine MPs each.
“These numbers are very finely poised and a few absentee MPs here and there can change RS equations dramatically,” said a member of the Upper House.
That’s also why many in the opposition camp feel that there may be a move by the ruling dispensation for Harivansh’s removal. Article 90(C) of the Constitution allows for removal of the RS deputy chairman by a resolution of the Council of States passed by a majority of members of the council, provided that no such resolution is moved unless at least 14 days’ notice has been given.
“His staying on the chair with the consent of his party is a situation that opposition parties would very much prefer,” an opposition MP told ThePrint, not wanting to be named.
“But practically speaking, it would be difficult for him to continue in the chair without BJP’s will so it is possible that they try to push him out, [perhaps] fielding somebody else from the panel of vice chairpersons (of MPs that occupy the chair at different times and run the House),” the MP further said, adding: “In such a situation if a BJD candidate like Sasmit Patra is chosen, then BJD support would be a given.”
However, there is also precedent where the BJD had refused the position of deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha because the party was not comfortable with the government’s choice of Bhartruhari Mahtab, another MP pointed out.
With both BJD and YSR Congress at nine seats apiece, there is also the possibility of somebody from the southern outfit being fielded for the chair.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)