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Did Naveen Patnaik turn the tables on opposition?


With the victory of JD (U) candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh by 125-105 votes to become the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman, NDA now have almost all the key constitutional posts in its kitty. This piece of development is not surprising at all, but it genuinely throws open a lengthy debate and few implications ahead of the 2019 General Elections. By the way, despite having both the chairman (Venkaiah Naidu) and deputy chairman Singh, NDA (with 73 seats) still lacks majority in the Upper House of Parliament or the Council of States.

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The first and the most imminent implication is the hint of growing powers of regional parties. The regional outfits have gained importance much to the dislike of BJP but instead of trying to thwart the regional outfits, BJP seems to have gone on an overdrive on August 7-8 to get a favourable result in the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman election.

The fence-sitters like the BJD, TRS and AIADMK looked to have tilted in favour of India’s single largest party which holds the absolute majority in the Lower House.

The most intriguing of this is the case of Naveen Patnaik, the BJD chief and Odisha Chief Minister. Having a clear mandate in Odisha, with 117 Assembly seats, Patnaik’s party won’t make way for BJP to enter the state which currently has only 10 seats as compared to Congress’ 16.

According to well-informed sources, Patnaik was the most sought-after person on the eve of election. Apparently, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was the first to reach out to his Odisha counterpart and convinced him to support his party’s candidate Singh. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, who was given the onus of gathering support from regional parties by the opposition, contacted Patnaik, but it was too late by then.

The Bihar CM also made an attempt to woo Aam Admi Party (AAP), but a point blank refusal from Arvind Kejriwal had reportedly stumped Kumar. “We cannot support a candidate propped up by BJP,” was the sharp response from the Delhi CM. Kumar even tried to convince him saying “it wasn’t a BJP candidate, but a JDU one.” But that also couldn’t break the ice as Kejriwal was hell-bent on not supporting anyone, even remotely connected with the saffron outfit.

However, the fence-sitters may have saved BJP the blushes at this point in time, but it’s not clear how they will go about their business in run-up to the General Elections next year.

The fact that BJP didn’t put up a candidate from its own ranks and on the contrary accepted someone from JDU is itself a conundrum that gives rise to many theories. One of which may be the ‘dislike’ factor that BJP may be fearing at present. Was BJP certain that fence-sitters won’t vote for a candidate directly from BJP? If yes, why is BJP apprehensive? Is it aware of the fact that there’s an anti-BJP breeze that is currently blowing?

One doesn’t have a definite answer as to what made them accept Singh as the candidate but it’s almost certain that BJP is not in a similar position as it was before the last General Elections in 2014.

Interestingly, the Congress in its efforts to unite the opposition is bound to have some more sleepless nights as the ploy didn’t work on Thursday. The prospect of Rahul Gandhi leading the opposition may not be supported by few parties who want to pursue their personal interests. So, a decision on this has been rightly shelved till the election to garner more support in favour of the Gandhi scion.

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