NEW DELHI: The Rajya Sabha deputy chairman's election, which was seen as a test of Opposition unity ahead of the 2019 general election, turned out to be a walkover for NDA's Harivansh, who was elected with a margin of 20 votes over the joint Opposition candidate, BK Hariprasad, as regional parties either voted for the NDA or did not vote, and even abstained.
Journalist-turned-politician Harivansh is the first person to become deputy chairman during his first term in the House. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha on a Janata Dal (United) ticket in 2014. He bagged 125 votes while Hariprasad got 105 votes. While two MPs of the YSR Congress Party abstained, 12 MPs from various parties were absent during the vote.
The NDA candidate winning the election despite non-NDA parties having more numbers in the Upper House shows meticulous planning by the BJP, both in choosing a candidate from the JD (U), an important ally in Bihar, and making the first move to reach out to key regional players Biju Janata Dal (BJD), which has nine MPs, and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which has six MPs, and getting the support of its critical ally Shiv Sena, which has three MPs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the BJD chief twice, once before the election for the post was announced, seeking support. He also came to the House after the election and congratulated Harivansh.
Moreover, JD (U) chief Nitish Kumar made personal efforts to reach out to the BJD and TRS. The TRS has shown some inclination towards Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee's proposed federal front, as party chief K C Rao met her.
But TMC leader Derek O'Brien ruled out lack of Opposition unity. "These are warm-up matches for the World Cup. The voters are different there (Lok Sabha)," said Brien.
The Opposition, which has been giving a tough time to the government in getting some key legislation passed in the Upper House due to its higher numbers, failed to convince even other like-minded partners, including the Aam Aadmi Party, to come on board.
The Opposition has been working to stitch together an alliance to take on the BJP government, but sources said that "poor planning" botched up everything and they needed to plan well in advance if they wanted to fight together against the BJP in 2019.
The BJP had issued a whip to all its members to be present during the vote, and even ailing Leader of the House Arun Jaitley turned up while two MPs each from the Congress, TMC, DMK and one from SP was absent. The absentee included Congress's T Subbarami Reddy and Biplab Thakur, TMC's Manas Bhunia and K D Singh and DMK's Kanimozhi, RS Bharathi and the SP's Jaya Bachchan.