Initially reluctant to contest the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson’s election, the Congress took the plunge after the Nationalist Congress Party opted out of the contest at the eleventh hour and no other opposition party appeared keen to field its candidate, according two leaders familiar with the developments.
By the time BK Hariprasad’s name was put forward, the Congress knew that the numbers were not on the opposition’s side, but did not want the election to go uncontested at a time when the party is taking an aggressive stance against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party , said one of the leaders cited above. The Congress had decided at the time that former deputy chairperson PJ Kurien retired that the post should go to an alliance partner. “Our first choice was the Nationalist Congress Party, and that is how the name of Vandana Chavan came up,” the leader said.
But the NCP decided against contesting after the Biju Janata Dal and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi extended their support to the National Democratic Alliance candidate Harivansh, making it virtually impossible for Chavan to make it. “Since no other opposition party was willing to contest, we decided to have our own candidate,” the Congress leader said.
“Besides, we wanted to expose the BJD, TRS, and Shiv Sena, which has been attacking the BJP while sharing power with it.”
The ruling NDA candidate, Harivansh of the Janata Dal (United), eventually got 125 votes against 101 for Congress candidate BK Hariprasad in an effective strength of 244.
A second Congress leader said that the party would now use the deputy chairperson’s election to attack the TRS in Telangana and the BJD in Odisha. Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik said the BJD’s move gave credence to talk of it having reached an understanding with the BJP. “This strengthens the rumours of seat-sharing discussions between the two parties,” he said. “The BJD has been betraying the people of Odisha for many years by making false claims about maintaining equal distance from both the BJP and the Congress. But its real character has now come to the fore,” he said. Similarly, in Telangana, the Congress will try to exploit what it describes as a “tacit understanding” between the BJP and the TRS. “This was on expected lines. The TRS had supported the BJP on demonestisation, presidential elections and on simultaneous polls. This is a clear indication what the TRS is going to do in future. We will expose them in the 2019 elections,” said senior Congress leader from Telangana, M Shashidhar Reddy.
Political analysts said the Congress decision to fight the elections was a good one because it has forced some parties to come out in the open with their preference of potential future alliances. “The people should know which party stands where and to what extent it can go. The cards are open now. It has not been a bad election for the Congress in that regard,” said Delhi-based political analyst N Bhaskara Rao.
But a section in the Congress suggested that the NDA gained the first-mover advantage by announcing its candidate even before the Opposition parties had started discussions on its nominee. “It was like presidential elections. The BJP announced its candidate first and managed to get support of many non-NDA parties. We were caught napping and by the time we announced our candidate, the BJP had seized the advantage,” said a Congress leader requesting anonymity.
First Published: Aug 09, 2018 23:06 IST