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Flexibility wins the day for NDA

Flexibility wins the day for NDA

Despite being in minority in Rajya Sabha, NDA on Thursday was able to gather necessary support for its candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh who was elected as Deputy Chairman of the Upper House by defeating Congress candidate B K Hariprasad by a margin of 20 votes. In the house of 244 members, Singh has polled 125 votes while Hariprasad only 105. The post had fallen vacant after the term of last Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha PJ Kurien came to an end on July 1. While BJP wanted to put up its own candidate for the post, the opposition parties, especially Congress and Trinamool Congress, were lobbying for their candidates to emerge as the consensus candidate as part of a deal to end the long-standing logjam in Parliament. As the ruling and the opposition parties failed to arrive at a consensus, NDA fielded JD(U) MP Harivansh Narayan Singh while Congress chose its MP from Karnataka for the post. Singh who is a first-time lawmaker has been a journalist, having worked with a number of media organisations in his nearly 40 years of career. NDA zeroing in on Singh was a smart move as it helped mollify JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar who is reportedly playing hardball with BJP over the issue of seat sharing for the upcoming Lok Sabha election. For JD(U) itself, the elevation of Singh is a calculated move to pacify the media fraternity who has been extremely critical of the Nitish Kumar government in the wake of Muzaffarpur shelter home scandal. But as it turned out, NDA's selection of Singh for the post of Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha was also good for soliciting support for the NDA candidate.

The NDA candidate could not have won without the crucial support he received from Shiv Sena, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD). Besides, MPs from Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and AIADMK also voted for him. The way NDA reached out to Sena, TRS and BJD for the support is especially noteworthy. Even though BJP is seeking to oust BJD from power in Odisha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up Naveen Patnaik and sought the support of his party for the NDA candidate. Even Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar called up Patnaik for the support. Kumar also called up TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao for his party's support to the JD(U) nominee. Setting aside his differences with Shiv Sena, BJP President Amit Shah called up Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray and sought the support of his party. And all these three parties finally voted in favour of Singh. The support from SAD and AIADMK was somewhat assured. The Opposition candidate BK Hariprasad got the support of Congress, TMC, DMK, Left parties, SP, BSP, NCP, and TDP while YSRCP and AAP boycotted the polls. The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party boycotted the election as it did not want to vote in favour of the NDA candidate who had the backing of BJP and it did not vote for the Congress candidate as Congress president Rahul Gandhi did not seek AAP's support for the Opposition's candidate. He also termed Congress as an impediment to Opposition's unity.

The ease with which top BJP leaders called up leaders of some of the regional parties seeking their support for NDA candidate for the post of Deputy Speaker of Rajya Sabha and the fact that they eventually supported the NDA candidate leading to his victory shows how BJP is ahead of Congress or other Opposition parties in striking a convenient political deal when it matters. While the Congress depended entirely on anti-BJPism and the idea of Opposition's unity, BJP tried to overcome its lack of a majority in Rajya Sabha by winning the support of parties based on issues. Congress failed to show this flexibility as the example of AAP not being consulted for its support even though it was open to such consultations illustrates. The coordination that NDA showed in garnering the support of opposition parties is missing from the Opposition's bid to claim power in the Lok Sabha election next year. BJP has already worked closely with Trinamool Congress, TDP, DMK and BSP in the past and if situation demands BJP leaders may also call up the top leadership of these parties and seek their support, either to save its government or to invite them to be part of the ruling alliance if NDA falls short of the required number in the next Lok Sabha election. Most of these regional parties which have come together with Congress in its bid to oust BJP from power are actually driven by the survival instincts as they face increasing threat to their home turf.

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