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Amid friction, opposition to call meeting on Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s election

The Congress leadership has communicated to regional parties that it is willing to give away its claim to the post, but the decision to back a candidate from a regional party will depend on the names that are proposed.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2018 23:23 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Opposition candidate,Rajya Sabha,Rajya Sabha deputy chairman
Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien retires soon and the election to select his successor will take place after the two Houses reconvene for Parliament’s monsoon session on July 18.(Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo)

As the countdown begins for election to the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s post, the Opposition will go into a huddle in the first week of July in search of a common candidate.

“The Rajya Sabha leaders of different parties will meet soon to decide the candidate,” Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, general secretay Sitaram Yechury said.

Fault lines have clearly emerged within the Opposition ranks over the possible choice of a candidate for the post, which is expected to be keenly contested by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and its rivals.

The incumbent deputy chairman, the Congress party’s PJ Kurien, will retire soon and the election to select his successor will take place after the two Houses reconvene for Parliament’s monsoon session on July 18.

Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC), the fourth largest party in Parliament, is keen to forge a federal front and seems hesitant to back a Congress nominee. The Biju Janata Dal (BJD), which, with nine votes, may tilt the equation in favour of the Opposition, also maintains a similar stand. “We will certainly not support any Congress candidate and backing a BJP candidate for this election is out of question,” said senior BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab.

“As far as we know, TDP (Telugu Desam Party) and TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samithi), too, would not support any Congress candidate.” The leader even went to the extent of suggesting that if the Congress calls a meeting of the Opposition parties, some regional parties may not even participate.

The CPM, which has three votes, will not support a Trinamool candidate. The Congress leadership has communicated to regional parties that it is willing to give away its claim to the post, but the decision to back a candidate from a regional party will depend on the names that are proposed.

It is in the backdrop of such complexities that the Opposition meeting in July will try to find a consensus candidate.

Last year, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi had called a meeting of Opposition parties to pick candidates for the Presidential and Vice Presidential elections. The Opposition’s efforts to project a united candidate for the Presidential election suffered a major blow as Janata Dal (United) leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar dumped the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress and formed a coalition government in the state with the BJP.

This time around, leaders of the Opposition are treading cautiously to avoid any further rift in their camp.

TMC’s leadership has indicated that it might suggest senior MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray’s name for the post. No names have been communicated to other parties so far.

First Published: Jun 29, 2018 23:23 IST