New Delhi: The Congress has decided to field its nominee as a joint opposition candidate for the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman after the other parties that have joined hands against the BJP chose not to nominate their candidate.
With the deadline for filing nominations ending Wednesday, the government reached out to the rival camp in a hope of building consensus on NDA nominee Harivansh Narayan Singh, who is from the JD(U).
At the same time, the BJP along with its allies was also trying to secure support of neutral parties like the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the event of an election. Janata Dal (U) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar spoke to his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik seeking the BJD's support for his party candidate.
Making its position clear, BJP's bickering ally Shiv Sena said it will support the NDA's nominee as it was an "apolitical" post.
The BJP president Amit Shah called his Sena counterpart Uddhav Thackeray and sought support for the August 9 election, Sena's Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut said in Mumbai. Leaders of a number of opposition parties today met twice after which they decided to put up a united fight for the post.
Various opposition parties were asked to discuss the issue with their leadership and propose a candidate suitable for the post. However, the parties including the NCP, the SP, the TMC, BSP and Left parties said they will not field any candidate and asked the Congress to put up its candidate.
"The Congress party will be putting up a candidate for the deputy charman's post," said a senior Congress leader after the meeting. An opposition leader said though the name of NCP's Vandana Chavan was discussed, the NCP was not too keen on fielding its member.
As no other party wanted to field their candidate, the Congress was authorised to pick a candidate and all opposition parties decided to support the nominee, the leader said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar told reporters that BJP leaders, including he himself, have contacted the Congress and other opposition parties as they wanted a consensus to emerge on Harivansh' name.
In Bhubaneswar, BJD spokesman Sasmit Patra said Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik will take a decision on the BJD's stand on Wednesday after Nitish Kumar sought his party's support.
Wednesday is the last day for filing nomination for the post and BJP sources said they wanted cross-party support for the JD(U) leader and therefore refrained from making any formal announcement about his candidature.
The ambivalence of BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal has added to the suspense over Harivansh's fate amid indications that the party may abstain. Sources said the Akali Dal held a meeting of all its top leaders, including party MPs, at the residence of party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Though the Akali Dal's stance was not immediately known, sources said Badal would be meeting BJP chief Amit Shah tonight before taking a final decision on the issue. Sources, however, said that the SAD is likely to finally support the NDA nominee.
The NDA nominee is likely to get support of 13 AIADMK members and six of TRS, but the decision of the BJD, which has nine members, will be significant. If the BJD backs the NDA candidate, his prospects will brighten in case of an election but if it abstains from voting, then his fate will become more uncertain.
The sources say the TDP has agreed to support a Congress-picked candidate.
In Tuesday's meeting, the opposition parties also discussed the matter pertaining to Nitish Kumar calling up BJD chief seeking support for the NDA nominee, the sources said.
The current strength of the Rajya Sabha is 244 and support of 123 members would be needed for a win in the full House. The BJP is the largest party in the House with 73 members. Its allies JD(U), Shiv Sena, Akali Dal have 6, 3, 3 MPs respectively.
The BJP is hoping to get support of four of the six Independent members and three of the four nominated members. The Congress has 50 members.