What BJP gains by picking Nitish aide for Rajya Sabha deputy chairman post

What BJP gains by picking Nitish aide for Rajya Sabha deputy chairman post

Courtesy : IT09/08/2018 07:52

The election for the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha is scheduled for August 9. The Opposition has been waiting for this election to pin down the Modi government on the floor of the House. The BJP lacks majority in the Rajya Sabha and unlike the Lok Sabha the party cannot push its choices and decisions through in the upper house.

Having its own MP as the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha was a difficult battle for the BJP. The party leadership - Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah - responded by spinning yet another surprise choice for the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman in first-time parliamentarian Harivansh Narayan Singh.

Harivansh Narayan Singh is Janata Dal United (JDU) JDU president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's close associate, friend and an important member of his think tank.

 He is considered as the man behind Nitish Kumar's demand for special status for Bihar. He has been close to Nitish Kumar since their days of activism during JP Movement against Indira Gandhi's Congress and government at the Centre in 1970s.

After parting ways with the BJP over impending elevation of the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the prime-ministerial candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Nitish Kumar returned to the NDA fold last year. But there have been reports suggesting that Nitish Kumar may be feeling stifled in the coalition with the BJP as Narendra Modi towers over him as a political leader. Nitish Kumar has given out signals that he is feeling uncomfortable with the BJP.

Then why PM Modi chose Nitish aide for Rajya Sabha's number two post?

Apart from falling in the line of Modi government's string of surprises for key posts, the choice of Harivansh Narayan Singh as Rajya Sabha deputy chairman gives the BJP many political advantages.

The biggest complaint of the allies against Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo has been that they don't give enough respect to the coalition partners. The Shiv Sena has been vocal about it. The Telegu Desam Party parted ways alleging the same.

By choosing Harivansh Narayan Singh for a key position in a house where the BJP lacks majority, PM Modi and Amit Shah have sent a message to the alliance partners that their party is not behaving like a big brother, who wants to keep everything under his own thumb.

 Nitish Kumar's JDU is the only NDA constituent that does not have a minister in the Modi government. A key Rajya Sabha post is a good compensation for having no share in the central government.

Secondly, the choice of Harivansh Narayan Singh may be used to humble Nitish Kumar politically. The BJP is the single-largest party in the Rajya Sabha and by putting up a candidate from the JDU, it is repeating what the party had done with Nitish Kumar, when he became the chief minister of Bihar for the first time in 2005. Then the BJP was the single-largest party. Nitish Kumar's JDU was a junior partner yet he was presented as the chief ministerial candidate.

This is not the first time that the Modi government has chosen other party's MP for the key position in Parliament. Earlier, the Modi government gave the post of Lok Sabha deputy speaker to the AIADMK, which is not even an alliance partner of the BJP. AIADMK MP M Thambidurai is the Lok Sabha deputy speaker. This decision turned the AIADMK into a friendly Opposition party of the BJP.

 Thirdly, the BJP and its alliance partners - JDU, LJP and the RLSP - will soon be in huddle to divide seats for next year's Lok Sabha elections. A few rounds of talks have already taken place. The LJP and the RLSP have apprehensions that the BJP would leave fewer seats than the last elections to accommodate the JDU.

By showing a big heart in sacrificing a key Rajya Sabha post to accommodate ally JDU, the BJP would gain an upper hand in handling the other constituents in Bihar. The BJP had won 22 seats, the LJP six and the RSLP three in 2014. The JDU had won only two. But Nitish Kumar is understood to be asking for a bigger share in the alliance.

Fourthly, by choosing Harivansh Narayan Singh as the NDA candidate for the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman election, PM Modi has got an able partner in Nitish Kumar for accumulating numbers in the upper house. It is now not the responsibility of the BJP alone to reach out to non-aligned Opposition parties to ensure enough votes for Harivansh Narayan Singh.

In fact, Nitish Kumar has already reached out to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi seeking its support for Harivansh Narayan Singh. This election will also firmly root Nitish Kumar in the Modi camp as the election for Rajya Sabha deputy chairman is all set to be a showdown between the NDA and the Congress-led Opposition.

Fifthly, the choice of Harivansh Narayan Singh as the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman candidate gives PM Modi and Amit Shah the option of keeping the 2020 Bihar Assembly election as open possibility. Harivansh Narayan Singh was sent to the Rajya Sabha on the JDU ticket in 2014.

Harivansh Narayan Singh, the journalist-turned-politician, retires in 2020 - the year when Bihar will go to polls and there will be a new government at the Centre. The BJP has been pushing to have its own chief minister in Bihar in 2020.

A retiring JDU MP as Rajya Sabha deputy chairman will ease pressure on the BJP to accede to some tough bargaining from Nitish Kumar two years later even if the Modi government returns to power in 2019.

Harivansh Narayan Singh was the editor-in-chief of the Hindi daily Prabhat Khabar, based in Jharkhand capital Ranchi. He is touted as a candidate who has friends cutting across the political spectrum.


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