New Delhi: The Congress is set to approach other opposition parties, ahead of the Parliament session, to put up a joint candidate for the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman post.
In a meeting of top party leaders Tuesday, chaired by interim president Sonia Gandhi, the Congress decided that it will field a candidate for the post, which fell vacant in April this year after the Janata Dal (United) MP Harivansh Narayan Singh’s term in the house expired.
“We decided that senior party leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad will reach out to other parties who we are likely to convince to vote for a Congress candidate. We have to speak to UPA allies as well before we file the nomination,” a leader present at the meeting told ThePrint.
The nominations will be accepted until noon on 11 September and the election for the post will be held on 14 September, the day Parliament’s monsoon session convenes.
Tuesday’s Congress meeting saw the presence of senior leaders of both Houses, including Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. This was also the first time since the stormy Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting last month, that multiple signatories of the letter demanding a leadership overhaul — such as Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma and Azad — came face to face with the party brass.
An ambitious challenge
The Congress’ desire to see one of its own as the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman, however, is an ambitious one, fraught with challenges.
The Congress presently has 40 members in the upper house but its allies bring that number up to 63 — DMK (7), RJD (5), NCP (4), JMM (1), MDMK (1), IUML (1), Shiv Sena (3) and 1 Independent candidate.
In order to successfully get a Congress candidate voted to the post of the deputy chairperson, the party will have to ensure it manages to cobble up the support of over 123 members (the majority mark) in the 245-member Upper House.
The BJP has 87 members of its own in the Rajya Sabha.
While the NDA is short of a majority in the House, it still enjoys 113 seats in the upper house. This includes AIADMK (9), JDU (5), SAD (3), among others.
Moreover, if one includes the 4 ‘nominated’ candidates — writer Swapan Dasgupta, former CJI Ranjan Gogoi, economist Narendra Jadhav, and boxer Mary Kom — the NDA’s tally rises to 117. This figure is just six short of the majority mark, a gap that shouldn’t be too difficult for the BJP to breach.
The other parties
For Congress to then be able to secure the deputy chairman post will come down to its efforts in convincing the ‘non-aligned’ parties in the Rajya Sabha.
These parties include the TMC (13), BSP (4), SP (8), TRS (7), BJD (9), the YSRCP (6), TDP (1), AAP (3), CPI-M (5), PDP (2), JDS (1). Other regional parties such as CPI (1), KC(M) (1), NPF (1), SDF (1), LJD (1) will also fall in this category.
This comes down to around 64 seats of the upper house. However, while certain parties in this category do not have a formal alliance with the BJP, they have had a history of voting in favor of the ruling party’s policies or abstaining from voting, thereby aiding the BJP.
For instance, Naveen Patnaik’s BJD has voted in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the upper house. However, he subsequently voiced his opposition to the National Register of Citizens or NRC.
When the BJP was pushing the Triple Talaq Bill in the Rajya Sabha, the AIADMK, BSP, PDP and TRS aided in the passing of the bill by abstaining from voting.
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