National Democratic Alliance candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh won the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman elections held today with 125 votes. Opposition candidate B.K. Hariprasad of the Congress party received 105 votes.
Singh is a Janata Dal (United) leader from Bihar and a former journalist.
The post was held before this by Congress leader P.J. Kurien, who retired on July 1.
In the Upper House of 244 members, a candidate needed a minimum of 123 votes to win. The Bharatiya Janata Party does not have a majority on its own in the House, and nominating a JD(U) candidate for the post was seen as the saffron party’s attempt to reach out to its allies.
After the no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi government, the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman elections were portrayed as the next big test for opposition unity. However, the opposition’s chances looked bleak after reports that Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal would be supporting the NDA candidate. Patnaik is said to have told Modi that the party could support Singh as he was a non-BJP candidate. Other disgruntled allies – the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal – also said they would vote with the NDA.
The Aam Aadmi Party had said that it will ‘boycott’ the elections because the Congress had not fulfilled its condition for support – a phone call from Rahul Gandhi. While Bihar chief minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar did call AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal to ask for support for Singh, Kejriwal reportedly turned down the offer as he did not want to vote for the official NDA candidate. The YSR Congress, the DMK and a Trinamool Congress lawmaker also stayed out of the vote, NDTV reported.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad congratulated Singh in the House after the elections, saying, “In elections, some on wins and someone loses. But the deputy chairman is no longer a part of any single party. He belongs to the country now. In fact, I believe that chairman and deputy chairman of the House should in-fact support the opposition as they are more undernourished than that of the ruling party.”
The prime minister also walked up to Singh in the Rajya Sabha to congratulate him, as did Arun Jaitley, who made his first appearance in the monsoon session of parliament today.
PM Narendra Modi congratulates NDA Candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh who was elected as Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman pic.twitter.com/lTy2yRpxik
— ANI (@ANI) August 9, 2018
“Today we mark the anniversary of the Quit India Movement. Harivansh Ji hails from Ballia, a land linked with freedom fighters. He has been inspired by Loknayak JP. He also spent time in Varanasi. Here is a leader who worked with a statesman like Chandra Shekhar Ji. Working closely with Chandra Shekhar Ji, Harivansh Ji knew in advance that Chandra Shekhar Ji would resign. However, he did not let his own paper have access to this news. This shows his commitment to ethics and public service. He is a learned man. He has read a lot of books and has also written extensively,” Indian Express quoted Modi as saying.
(With PTI inputs)