By Sunil Dang
Schedule for the Monsoon Session has been announced and as per tradition, this 18 day session should decide the next Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the position got vacated after the expiry of incumbent PJ Kurien’s tenure. As per current status, both BJP and Congress party are lobbying hard for victory of their favoured candidate. However, both camps are not able to reach the safe number which is 123. BJP is still not able to garner more than 115 Rajya Sabha MP’s support while Trinmool’s Mamata Banerjee is reported to have managed only 117 Upper House member’s support for her candidate Sukhendu Sekhar Ray. But, there is a catch because the Left is unlikely to back a TMC candidate. So, horse trading is expected to hit the headlines during this Monsoon Session as both camps would try hard to garner the additional support which is missing today. As per the track record of both BJP and Congress, especially in last four years, it’s unlikely that Congress supported candidate would win the coveted constitutional post. AIADMK not figuring in those 115 members supporting BJP’s candidate also translates into an advantage for BJP in case the election is held for the vacated post.
In case, BJP fails to get the magic number in its favour, it may try to delay the election. Hence, there is a job for the opposition ahead of the Monsoon Session to ensure election of the Deputy Chairman of the Upper House. The last time there was a close contest for Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s post was in 1992 when Najma Heptulla, then a Congress candidate, won with 128 votes. Renuka Chowdhury, an opposition candidate then, secured 95 votes. In the revolving door of politics, Heptulla later joined the BJP while Chowdhury joined the Congress in 1998.
Even though, the job on offer is a constitutional post. Names doing the rounds in media circle are from the regional parties, which is disturbing. In my opinion, post of the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha needs a person, who has a national vision and international understanding. A person from a regional party doesn’t fit into the large shoes being vacated by seasoned leader like PJ Kurien. Person sitting to contest for election to this post, should have the courage to stand above the party and side with constitutional demands as veteran Left leader Somnath Chatterjee did when his party withdrew support from the UPA-1 government. The seasoned politician didn’t vacated the Lok Sabha Speaker’s post citing he is no more a party member after being elected to the constitutional post of the Lok Sabha Speaker. Hence, leader winning the post of Deputy Chairman of the Council of States must remember that their conduct would ratify the sanctity of our constitution too. So, in case both camps fail to find a consensus candidate, it’s advisable for both the BJP and the Congress Party to pitch their own candidate rather supporting their ally in this fierce contest.
Coming back to politics, this election is vital for both BJP and Congress as it would create a perception among voters as to which camp has momentum. This momentum is expected to give an edge to the winning party in coming four state elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram. If the BJP wins this election, it would the fifth constitutional post after President, Vice President, Prime Minister and Lok Sabha Speaker which they would wrest from the Congress party. This victory would mean a lot for the ‘party with difference’ as Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha has always been with the Congress Party, except between 17 December 1969 and 1 April 1972 when BD Khobragade of the Republican Party of India occupied the post.