After the no-confidence motion, which was defeated by the NDA government, the election to the post of deputy chairperson in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday has become the latest platform to showcase Opposition unity. The Opposition parties, led by the Congress, will look to retain the post after having burnt its fingers during the election to the Vice President when JD(U) pulled out of the Opposition camp to side with the NDA. The NDA, which is in minority in the Upper House, will be keen to have a candidate of its choice in the deputy chairperson post as it will help the Centre in passing crucial legislation with less than a year left for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The post of the deputy chairperson had been lying vacant since June following the retirement of PJ Kurien, who had been elected to the Rajya Sabha on a Congress ticket from Kerala. The current strength of Rajya Sabha is 244 and support of 123 members will be needed for a win in the full house.
* When will the election to the post of deputy chairperson be held?
Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has announced in the House that the election will be held at 11 am on August 9, the penultimate day of the Monsoon session. He also suggested that the deputy chairperson should be elected by consensus. The nomination papers were filed on Wednesday.
* What do the rules stipulate on the election of deputy chairman?
Article 89 of the Constitution stipulates that the vacancy for the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson has to be filled up at the earliest. “The council of States shall, as soon as may be, choose a member of the council to be Deputy a thereof and, so often as the office of Deputy Chairman becomes vacant, the council shall choose another member to be Deputy chairman thereof,” states clause 2 of Article 89.
According to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Rajya Sabha, in the absence of a deputy chairman, the vice-president may nominate from among the members of the council a panel of not more than six vice-chairperson to preside over the council.
* Who are in the fray for the post of deputy chairman?
The NDA is likely to field JD(U)’s Harivansh Narayan Singh for the post. The first-time MP representing Bihar is a former journalist and former editor-in-chief of Hindi daily Prabhat Khabar. Singh was one of the three JD(U) MPs elected unopposed from Bihar in 2014.
Meanwhile, three-time parliamentarian of the Congress Hariprasad is the Opposition candidate for the post of deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha. Congress leader Anand Sharma said five sets of nomination papers — five proposers and five seconders — were filed by the combined opposition.
Earlier, the names of DMK’s Tiruchi Siva, NCP’s Vandana Chavan, nominated member K T S Tulsi and BJD’s Prasanna Acharya (subject to the party joining the Opposition block) was also doing the rounds.
* How do the numbers stack up in the Rajya Sabha?
The Opposition, sources said, has at least 116 votes, including two of YSR Congress. With one seat vacant, the strength of Rajya Sabha is 244 and the winning candidate requires 123 votes. Besides the nominated and Independent members affiliated to it, BJP, which has 73 members on its own, is banking on the support of 13 members of AIADMK, nine of BJD, six of TRS and two members of YSR Congress to sail through. If all four parties support the NDA candidate, then the numbers add up to 126.
* What have the regional parties and NDA allies hinted?
While all eyes are on fence-sitters such as TRS and BJD, sources in opposition parties said the party of Chandrasekhar Rao is likely to go with the NDA. In a major boost to the Opposition camp, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP is certain to go against the ruling party candidate.
The Shiv Sena and Akali Dal have extended their full support to the NDA nominee along with AIADMK. Opposition parties are also in touch with BJD, which has not opened its cards yet. “Because of assembly elections in Odisha next year, BJD may abstain or be absent during voting,” a senior opposition leader said.