The Rajya Sabha Deputy Speaker election takes place on Thursday, 9th August, and the opposition has chosen Vandana Chavan as their candidate. Vandana Chavan is a law maker and member of Sharad Pawar‘s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). She is also a former Mayor of Pune. In order to win in the 245 member house, a candidate needs 123 votes but any abstention will bring down the number of majority votes.
In a parliamentary meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP Chief Amit Shah to discuss the election. Both the Akalis and Shiv Sena will support the government, sources say. The government is also in hopes that the AIADMK and K. Chandrasekhar Rao‘s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) will help it achieve 125 votes.
If the Akalis (3 seats), the Shiv Sena (3 seats) and Naveen Patnaik‘s (BJD) Biju Janata Dal (9 seats) abstain from voting, the NDA numbers will be down to 110 votes, when the majority mark is 115 votes.
The government’s choice for the post is Harivansh Narayan Singh, a first time lawmaker from Nitish Kumar‘s Janata Dal (United). He is a candidate that is known to have friends across the political spectrum- considered an important qualification to manage the house.
The Akali Dal, longtime partner of the BJP in Punjab, were upset over the fact that their party man Naresh Gujral wasn’t chosen, inspite of him being the front runner for the position. The BJP switched the candidate to Harivansh Narayan Singh at the last minute. The Akali Dal, upset by the sudden switch in candidate for the Rajya Sabha post, are considering the option of abstention.
The Shiv Sena is also upset at the fact that the government did not consult with them before choosing a candidate. Senior party leader, Sanjay Raut said that Amit Shah had called up Uddhav Thackeray asking for support. Thackeray replied by saying that his party would take a call on the issue an hour before voting. He further added that the party will take into consideration whether a capable man has been fielded.
The opposition has 119 seats, including Chandrababu Naidu‘s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress. There are indications that Arvind Kejriwal‘s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Mehbooba Mufti‘s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the DMK will all support the opposition candidate.
The opposition has not yet found a consensus candidate, which they decided to field. In a meeting on Monday, all parties were reluctant to field their own candidates and said that they were ready to support a consensus candidate.
The Congress is a natural claimant with 51 seats in the Rajya Sabha, but the party has taken a backseat so far to send a signal that it was willing to work for the common goal of defeating the BJP in next year’s general elections.