New Delhi: The hard-fought battle for the post of the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman — which witnessed a gripping build-up over the last weeks — will take place shortly. The government claims it has 125 votes, including that of Naveen Patnaik’s BJD, in a house where the halfway mark is at 123. The magic figure is expected to come down to 120, with Arvind Kejriwal announcing that his three lawmakers will stay out. It will also push down opposition numbers, initially at 110. The battle, still, is expected to be a close one where every vote counts. Even Union minister Arun Jaitley, who was recuperating at home after an operation, has come to parliament to vote today.
Here are the top 10 updates in this big story:
- Backed by a united opposition, Congress candidate BK Hariprasad is up against first-time lawmaker Harivansh Narayan Singh from Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United.
- It was a phone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi which helped Naveen Patnaik make up his mind to support the government, sources said. The party has nine members in the upper house, a huge number that may swing the battle in the government’s favour.
- It was the absence of a phone call that made Arvind Kejriwal decide to boycott the election. AAP sources said the party chief is upset that Rahul Gandhi did not call and ask for support. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar did, but the party said it would not support an NDA candidate.
- “If Rahul Gandhi can hug Narendra Modi, why cannot he ask Arvind Kejriwal for support to his party’s candidate,” said Mr Singh, who is also leader of AAP’s three-member team in the Rajya Sabha, said.
- With assiduous effort over the last two days, the BJP has managed to get the support of miffed allies Akali Dal and Shiv Sena. After indicating that it might stay out of the battle, the Sena said yesterday that it would go along with the NDA candidate this time, since the post was “apolitical”. The party has 3 lawmakers in the upper house.
- The floor managers of the BJP say the NDA candidate would, apart from the bloc’s 91 votes, get support from AIADMK’s 13 members, Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s 6 members, four nominated and independent members.
- The majority mark in the 244-member Rajya Sabha is 123. But some parties could abstain, pulling down the majority mark.
- Besides Arvind Kejriwal’s party, the list of abstainers is expected to contain YSR Congress and Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP. Ms Mufti, whose alliance with the BJP ended recently, had initially indicated that she would support the opposition. A member of the Congress and the DMK are also expected to skip the voting.
- The opposition camp has the support of Trinamool Congress, DMK, Left parties, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Nationalist Congress Party. A recent addition is Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, which exited the NDA earlier this year.
- “There has to be a contest. This is a democracy, therefore this contest is taking place,” senior Congress leader Anand Sharma has said. Regarding government claims about its wish to have a consensus candidate, he said, “neither the PM nor his party members ever discussed anything with us. The opposition was asked to name a person”.