Newly-elected Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha Harivansh Narayan Singh with Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad in the house (Photograph: PTI)

In Harivansh Narayan Singh’s Win, Congress Fails The Opposition Unity Test In Rajya Sabha

Harivansh Narayan Singh’s election as Rajya Sabha’s deputy chairman came as a setback to the Indian National Congress’ hope of cementing the opposition unity to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the next general election in 2019.

Singh, 62, a member of Modi’s alliance partner Janata Dal (United), got 125 votes in the upper house where the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies have just 89 seats. The opposition candidate, Congress leader BK Hariprasad, got 105 votes.

The NDA was helped by parties who chose to abstain: Aam Aadmi Party, YSR Congress and the People’s Democratic Party. While they are critical of the BJP, they didn’t want to support the Congress either. Regional parties AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal voted for the NDA, bolstering its numbers.

“I think the smartest to come out of this whole election is the Biju Janata Dal,” said political analyst Aditi Phadnis. The BJD, led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, is in power in Odisha which goes to Assembly elections in 2019 along with the general election. The BJD’s biggest rival in the state is expected to be the BJP.

At one stroke they have made a party which was going to be their strongest adversary, their ally.
Aditi Phadnis, Political Editor, Business Standard

Patnaik’s support for the JD(U) candidate came after a call from his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar, who also called up leaders of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and Arvind Kejriwal of the AAP.

Lack of similar outreach from Congress President Rahul Gandhi is being seen as the key reason for its candidate failing to garner votes. The Congress, however, said, it would rather lose than join hands with the AAP.