New Delhi: The ruling NDA today comfortably bagged the post of deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha when journalist-turned politician Harivansh of the JD(U) beat Congress' B K Hariprasad in an election that was seen as a test for the opposition unity ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In a boost to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance(NDA), its candidate Harivansh, the 62-year-old first-time MP from the Nitish Kumar-led party, got 125 votes as against 105 polled by Hariprasad, who was the opposition nominee.
The post of the deputy chairman is lying vacant since the retirement of P J Kurien of the Congress on July 1.
The entire House congratulated Harivansh with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a lighter vein, saying "ab sub kuch 'Hari Bharose'. Aur mujhe vishwas hai ke sabhi, idhar ho ya udhar, sabhi sansadon per Hari Kripa bani rahegi (everything is now in the hands of Hari or God. And I am confident that every member, whether on this side or that side, will have his mercy)."
Leader of the House Arun Jaitley and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad also led the felicitations. Jaitley, who is recuperating after a renal transplant, attended the house after a long gap.
Harivansh said it would be his endeavour to uphold the dignity of the Upper House and expressed the hope that differences would be ironed out through constructive debates, consensus and guidance.
He exuded confidence that all members will work together and imbibe the principles of Mahatma Gandhi and Jai Prakash Narayan to ensure a smooth run of the House. He hails from the same village in Ballia-Saran region in Uttar Pradesh-Bihar border where Jai Prakash Narayan, a socialist leader and anti-Emergency crusader, was born.
"Treading on rules and procedures framed by our Constitution makers, we can lead the country to greatness...There would be differences in debates, there would be different opinions... We can find out a way. I got this opportunity to be here...I am frightened, surrounded by so many experienced people but this is my strength too as you all will guide me and I assure you I will run the House in a fair and decent manner," said Harivansh, who is known to keep a low profile and is considered close to Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar.
As many as 232 members out of an effective strength of 244 voted thereby reducing the majority mark to 117.
The BJP-led NDA was present in full strength in the House and also got the support of fence sitters BJD(9) and TRS(6). The AIADMK with 13 members also voted for the NDA.
Two members each of the Congress, TMC, DMK and one from Samajwadi Party(SP) were absent from the house at the time of voting.
The PDP and the AAP, which have two and three members respectively, did not participate in the voting, sources in the Rajya Sabha secretariat said.
Two members of YSRCP abstained from the voting.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu initiated the process of the election by calling for division of votes in the House.
The nomination of Harivansh was proposed by Ram Prasad Singh(JD-U) and seconded by union minister and RPI member Ramdas Athawale.
BJP president Amit Shah, Shiv Sena's Ranjay Raut and Akali Dal's Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa were also among the proposers.
The voting had to be carried out for the second time as some members pointed out mistakes in the first polling. Result displayed for the first voting was "122 ayes, 98 noes, 2 abstain. Total: 222.
However, the final vote count was 125 votes in favour of Harivansh, 105 for Hariprasad along with two abstentions.
Soon after the election result was announced by Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, Jaitley, Azad and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar accompanied Harivansh to the seat designated for the Deputy Chairman in the House, which is next to that of the Leader of Opposition.
In his speech, Modi also spoke of the achievements of Harivansh, a journalist for about four decades.
Hoping that Harivansh would do justice to all members of the House, Modi in a lighter vein said the situation in the House is such that the umpire faces more problems than the players.
Earlier, Azad hoped the new Deputy Chairman would give enough opportunity to the opposition members to raise their issues.