Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson’s election likely to be delayed

Functionaries from the ruling dispensation said that the rules for the election do not give any strict deadline for when the poll must be conducted, and argued that there was precedent of the election being delayed.

india Updated: Jul 11, 2018 07:49 IST
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Rajya Sabha,Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson,Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson’s election
File photo of Rajya Sabha proceedings during monsoon session in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

The much-anticipated tussle between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and the Opposition for the post of the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha might not come about at all in the upcoming monsoon session, leaders across parties indicated on Tuesday.

Functionaries from the ruling dispensation, who asked not to be named, said that the rules for the election do not give any strict deadline for when the poll must be conducted, and argued that there was precedent of the election being delayed.

In such a situation, the House can be run by a panel of vice-chairmen selected by the chairman, they added.

“It can happen after the session as per rules,” said one of the people cited above, pointing out that the monsoon session, starting on July 18, will have just 18 working days.

The election has been necessitated because of Congress leader and Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson PJ Kurien’s retirement from the Upper House on July 2. The election is decided by a simple majority. The Opposition has 113 members in the Upper House to the NDA’s 95, but the result will depend on how 32 fence sitters vote.

Government officials pointed out that there are at least three past instances when the election was delayed.

“In 2012, the office fell vacant on April 2 following expiry of the term of K Rehman Khan. The election, however, was held in next monsoon session as dates could not be finalised during the budget session,” said an official.

Another official said that in 2006 the election was held 40 days after the incumbent’s term got over, and in 2004, after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power, the election took place on July 22 even though the post had fallen vacant on June 10.

Intense negotiations are on in the Opposition camp ahead of the election, which is being seen as a prestige issue by both camps. The leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, is in touch with different opposition parties even as Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee is keen to see her party MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy emerge as the common Opposition candidate.

Several leaders indicated that parties such as the Telangana Rashtriya Samithi, the Aam Aadmi Party, Telugu Desam Party and Biju Janta Dal were more likely to back Banerjee’s candidate than to vote for a Congress nominee. The Congress alone does not have numbers to ensure victory.

A government official pointed out that vice-president Venkaiah Naidu, who is also the Rajya Sabha chairman, has already conveyed to the government that it should work with the opposition to try and find a consensus candidate.

“The government fears that if TMC gets the post, there could be a problem in running the House. The government is looking at a situation where the house is run by chairman and the panel of vice-chairmen. So the current situation is not difficult for the government,” one ruling party functionary said.

The proceedings of the Rajya Sabha were marred by disruptions during the budget session with differences between the Opposition and the NDA on several issues.

An NDA functionary said no final call had been taken but there is a discussion within government if the election should be held later. A senior opposition strategist said that they, too, were anticipating a delay in the election.

Afzal Amanullah, a former union parliamentary affairs secretary, said the deputy chairman is an integral part of the House and suggested that propriety demands an early election. “Normally the chairman sits for 1-2 hours in a day. Therefore there is a need for a deputy chairman and a panel of vice-chairmen to run the House. Without a deputy chairman, the Rajya Sabha is incomplete and propriety demands that the post should not be kept vacant,” he said.

First Published: Jul 11, 2018 07:49 IST