Rajya Sabha deputy chairman election: Numbers and possibilities

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The Rajya Sabha will elect its deputy chairman of the House at 11 am today, August 9. It is a direct contest between Harivansh Narayan Singh of the JDU and BK Hari Prasad of the Congress. Harivansh Narayan Singh is the NDA candidate while BK Hari Prasad is the joint candidate for the Opposition.

Who has the number?

The BJP is the single-largest party in the Rajya Sabha but it does not have the number to win majority in the House. In fact, the entire NDA does not have the magic number without the support of friendly Opposition parties.

The election for the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman is taking place because PJ Kurien retired as a member on July 1 this year. The post of deputy chairman is lying vacant since then.

The current strength of the Rajya Sabha is 244. There is a vacancy from Bihar. A coalition needs the support of at least 123 members to get its candidate as the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman.

The Congress is the biggest Opposition party with 50 MPs in the Rajya Sabha. The TMC and the SP have 13 MPs each followed by the TDP, which has six members in the Rajya Sabha.

The RJD and the CPI-M have five MPs each, the BSP, the NCP and the DMK have 4 each while the AAP has three. The CPI and the PDP have two each. These parties are understood to be voting against the NDA candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh. Their combined strength is 111.

The BJP has 73 MPs in the Rajya Sabha. Among its allies, the JDU has six MPs in the Rajya Sabha followed by Shiv Sena three and Akali Dal three. Along with other smaller alliance partners and supportive Independents and nominated members, the BJP has support of 95 MPs in the Rajya Sabha.

What may happen in Rajya Sabha?

Going by the past record of understanding, the BJP is likely to get support of the 13 MPs of the AIADMK, nine of the BJD, six of the TRS, two of the YSR Congress and one of the INLD. If all these four parties vote for the NDA candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh, the numbers add up to 126 three more than the required number.

JDU president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has reached out to the TDP among other regional parties seeking support for Harivansh Narayan Singh. The BJD, which has 9 MPs, has already announced its support for the NDA candidate. If the TDP breaks away from the Opposition camp, their strength would come down to 101.

There are speculations that parties like the TDP and the TRS may abstain from voting. If both abstain from voting, the effective strength of the Rajya Sabha would come down to 239 requiring the NDA to manage 120 votes.

In that case, if the AIADMK votes for the NDA candidate, the ruling coalition will still have the support of 127 again, seven more than the half-way mark.

The Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s election is a close contest. If the BJP floor managers do their job well, the ruling coalition candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh should sail through. But if the Opposition parties succeed in outsmarting the BJP, BK Hari Prasad could be a surprise candidate.