The smooth victory for the government in the election for the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman has exposed a sense of disarray prevailing in the opposition camp and highlighted the challenges in forging an anti-BJP coalition ahead of the general elections. Capping weeks of a gripping political drama that tested the persuasive skills of both the BJP and the Congress, NDA nominee Harivansh Narayan Singh from the Janata Dal (United) had an easy win with 125 votes over Congress candidate BK Hariprasad who could muster 105 votes in a House with a majority mark of 119. The significance of the hard-fought battle was that the NDA could garner support from two non-NDA parties — Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). The support from the new quarters proved a decider in what was initially thought to be a close fight. This could be a key pointer to the contours of political alignment for the next year’s general elections. Following the failed no-confidence motion against the government in the Lok Sabha last month, the contest for the post of RS deputy chairperson was seen as a test for the opposition unity and its ability to build alliances. In nominating the JD(U) candidate, the BJP scored two major points: winning over a sulking ally and making a couple of new friends. With this victory, the BJP has finally overcome the problem of lack of majority in the Upper House. Picking the JD (U) member for the post was a deft move by the BJP leadership as the clout of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar helped in getting the support from non-NDA and non-UPA parties.
If this election is to be taken as a test for opposition’s unity, then it has failed to clear it. The opposition parties, which were initially very vocal about building an anti-BJP front and pressing for a non-Congress candidate, had developed cold feet, allowing Congress to field its own nominee and ensure a contest. The entire process reflects diffidence in opposition ranks while the BJP exploited the weak spot in the opposition camp. Moreover, BJP chief Amit Shah worked diligently and succeeded in extracting the support of the miffed allies Akali Dal and Shiv Sena, who initially decided to abstain. The RS election drama has once again proved that mere anti-BJPism cannot be an effective glue for opposition unity. It has also underscored the importance of smart alliances with regional parties that will win the day for the national parties. Despite emerging as a challenger to the BJD on its turf in Odisha, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah personally reached out to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to solicit his support.