Why in the first place victory in the Rajya Sabha Deputy Speaker election so important for NDA, more so for Modi?
The election for the post of Rajya Sabha Deputy Speaker took place today among much fanfare. After the opposition scored a victory over NDA by getting their candidate CM Ramesh elected to the Public Accounts Committee just two days ago, the big fight for the post of Rajya Sabha Deputy Speaker had turned into a Prestige Battle. Bagging 125 votes Janta Dal-United (JDU) RS MP Harivansh Narayan Singh got elected as the new deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha. Congratulating him Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Ab Sansad main sab Hari bharose. (Everything in parliament now rests with Hari).” Though one cannot ignore the clever wordplay here, for Modi it was, in fact, crucial to get Harivansh Singh elected.
Several factors were at play in this election, the major one being who will support whom. Especially after the No Confidence motion debate, which party sides with whom reflects the loyalty, which in turn is considered imperative in the run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections. With this perspective, the victory for both the sides meant a reflection of alliance strength. While Congress candidate BK Hariprasad had to concede defeat with only 105 votes in its favor, NDA’s candidate managed to get 125 votes. The current strength of the Rajya Sabha is 244. However, 2 MPs YSR Congress, 3 from AAP and 2 from PDP stayed out of it. Thus the majority mark was pegged at 119 with only 237 MPs voting.
It is indeed remarkable to note that though AAP abstained from the election, it did get a call from JDU’s Nitish Kumar seeking support to NDA candidate. On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself reportedly, dialed BJD’s Naveen Patnaik asking the support of his nine MPs which eventually proved to be crucial and put the treasury benches on the lead. So, why in the first place victory in the Rajya Sabha Deputy Speaker election so important for NDA, more so for Modi?
Despite winning several states across the country, the BJP and especially the NDA is going through a strained time. Many NDA coalition partners felt that their voices and opinions weren’t taken into account before making any decision. Shivsena was clearly miffed with the BJP, so much so that they even declared the party will contest 2019 Lok Sabha elections alone. The Telugu Desam Party quit the NDA following non-fulfillment of promise to give Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh. The Shiromani Akali Dal too mooted dissent on several occasion.
With the trends in the current by-election, there is no doubt in the minds of Modi and Shah that the Modi wave has faded on the ground zero. Which means that the BJP has to turn to the alliance partner for support. Recently Naresh Gujral, SAD MP even said, “The era of the coalition has begun again.” If Modi has to win 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he needs the coalition partners back in the fold who have felt neglected in the last four years of his tenure.
Like other alliance partners, JD(U) was irked with BJP as it had no representation in the cabinet. Similarly, on the lines of TDP, demands for Special Status started gaining grounds in the state. To put these complaints to rest, BJP decided to take a step back and instead choose a candidate from JD(U). This served two purposes: firstly, the JD(U) can now make peace with the BJP and secondly, it sends a message to all the NDA partners that when the time comes, BJP is ready to put itself on the backburner. For the regional parties in NDA who believed that with every state election victory, BJP is destroying their prospects of growth, this can be meant as an assurance.
If not for the victory of Harivansh Singh, Modi’s NDA plans would invite roadblocks by alliance partners themselves. Achieving victory “Hari Bharose”, Modi timely dodged the crisis.