Stooping to conquer

BJP exhibited its superior floor management in the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman’s election
It was never going to be easy for the Bharatiya Janata Party to get a candidate of its choice elected as the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The ruling party and its allies fell short of a majority in the House. But what it lacked in numbers, the party made up in tact and ploy. First, in choosing a member of the Janata Dal (United), a friend-turned-foe-turned-friend, as the candidate, the BJP sent out the signal that it was willing to be more accommodative to parties that support it. Second, in reaching out to the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, a party seeking to maintain equidistance between the Congress and the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi demonstrated a readiness to make peace without standing on prestige. Indeed, by proposing a JD(U) MP, Harivansh, for the post, the BJP found it easier to seek the support of other parties. Once the deal with the BJD was sealed, Congress candidate B.K. Hariprasad stood no chance. Mr. Hariprasad failed to win the support of MPs from parties such as the Peoples Democratic Party, which, though estranged from the BJP, is not keen on supporting the Congress. Whether the deal with the BJD will have significance beyond the election of the Deputy Chairman is not clear yet. With the BJP making rapid strides in Odisha, a BJP-BJD alliance is unlikely. However, it remains to be seen whether this influences floor coordination among Opposition parties during voting or while debating on policy issues. Until recently, the Opposition enjoyed the majority in the House and was able to stall legislation. This may change if the BJD sees a longer term interest in coordinating with the BJP on specific issues. In retrospect, the Congress might have missed a trick in not making the effort to win over the BJD and the Aam Aadmi Party.
Read together with the numbers from the recent no-confidence vote in the Lok Sabha, the one thing that this election confirms is that Opposition unity is still very much a work in progress. The BJP and the Congress may be the principal players at the national level, but they are nowhere close to being the two poles of the next Lok Sabha election. A few regional players such as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the Telugu Desam Party, and the BJD could well find themselves pitched against both the Congress and the BJP then. And if the Lok Sabha election results push the BJP’s National Democratic Alliance well ahead of a Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, there is no saying which formation these parties will support. Therefore, the Congress will need to beat back the BJP in States where the two parties are locked in a head-to-head contest; otherwise, it will be difficult for it to stitch together an effective and successful pre-poll or post-poll alliance.
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