Harivansh vs Hariprasad: Divided Opposition at risk ahead of Rajya Sabha race for deputy chairman
On the eve of the election to the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) stood united, and seemed to have secured the support of non-aligned parties, even as fractures appeared to widen in the Opposition camp.
The list of notices accessed by Hindustan Times shows that apart from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal (United), the Republican Party of India (RPI), the Shiv Sena, the Akali Dal and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) had either proposed or seconded Harivansh, the JD(U) leader who is the NDA’s candidate. Harivansh also has the support of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), after JD(U) leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar called up Odisha CM and BJD leader Naveen Patnaik and TRS leader and Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao on Tuesday.
It was starkly different on the other side with both the AAP and Trinamool missing from the notices backing BK Hariprasad, the Opposition’s candidate, although the latter’s Derek O’Brien said that his party’s MPs would support the Opposition candidate.
The nomination of Hariprasad itself was preceded by high drama and his candidature was announced hours before the deadline for nomination on Wednesday.
An OBC leader from Karnataka, Hariprasad is serving his third term in the Upper House.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar called up Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and sought the AAP’s support for Harivansh, a political leader familiar with the development said.
“Kumar said that Harivansh was his candidate and sought Kejriwal’s support. But the Delhi CM made it clear that he could not vote for a National Democratic Alliance candidate. If Congress did not want his support, AAP would abstain,” the leader said on condition of anonymity.
The election will be held on Thursday morning. Party whips are not allowed in this poll. The winner is decided by a simple majority.
Relief over the naming of the candidate — itself achieved after much palaver — was short-lived as the AAP, which has three MPs in Rajya Sabha, slammed the Congress and demanded that party president Rahul Gandhi must speak to Delhi CM Arvind Kerjiwal to secure support for Hariprasad.
Dubbing the Congress as a “mean-spirited party”, the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said, “If they [the Congress] ask for our vote, we will oblige. It is meaningless to vote compulsively, if they do not need it.”
“If Rahul Gandhi can hug Narendra Modi, why cannot he ask Arvind Kejriwal for support to his party’s candidate?” Singh added. There is also an apprehension that all Trinamool Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal MPs may not vote for the Opposition nominee.
Opposition leaders who asked not to be identified said that the Trinamool’s initial choice was either Vandana Chavan or KTS Tulsi.
Meanwhile, BJP chief Amit Shah and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s outreach to allies and non-aligned parties appeared to have paid off.
The Opposition is also not sure if Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YRSCP will vote for Hariprasad.
“We don’t expect them to vote for the Opposition in an open ballot voting,” quipped a senior Opposition leader asking not to be identified.
Several senior Opposition leaders rushed to Chennai to pay their last respects to deceased DMK President M Karunanidhi. All four DMK MPs also rushed to Chennai.
“We are expecting that at least three of them will try to return to Delhi for the vote,” said a second Opposition leader on condition of anonymity.
The Congress, however, can draw some satisfaction that the TDP has announced its support for Hariprasad.
“We have decided to support Congress leader B K Hariprasad,” TDP leader Y S Choudhary said.
Earlier in the morning, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma introduced Hariprasad as the joint choice of the Opposition and said he is a “formidable candidate” and a “better” one than the NDA’s Harivansh.
“’Opposition unity’ is a case of the headlines getting in front of ground realities. The fracturing of the opposition in the deputy chair race is a reminder that anti-BJP forces have a long, uphill climb before they achieve something close to consensus,” said Milan Vaishnav, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
He added being unified against something should not be conflated with being unified for something.
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