Ahead of the 2019 general election, the ruling NDA and the Opposition UPA are set to face tough time in the election of the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman as incumbent, P J Kurien of the Congress is retiring on July 1, 2018.
Kurien is holding the post since 2012 and held the office at the crucial time, particularly in the passing of the AP Reorganisation Act 2014. Elected in 2005 to Rajya Sabha, he was a seven-time member of Lok Sabha from Kerala representing the Congress. Interestingly, the Congress has been holding the deputy chairman post for over four decades with every successive deputy chairman representing the Congress.
Now, though not having enough numbers, the Congress is keen on retaining the post. The Congress has 51 members in the 245-member House, while the ruling BJP has 69 members. Though BJP is in power and is the single largest party in Rajya Sabha, it is yet to get majority in the House to get its member elected to the post of Deputy Chairman. However, the BJP is not interested to have its own member as Deputy Chairman as Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu is holding the chairman post. It is for this reason, the BJP is planning to give the post to one of its allies and AIADMK with 13 members tops the list. However, the AIADMK may not be considered for this post, as the party already enjoys the post of Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha.
The next alternative for the BJP is the Biju Janata Dal which has 9 members in the House and the BJP is likely to push forward the BJD candidate for the post. The Telangana Rastra Samiti with 6 members is also said to be trying for the post pushing forward the candidature of its senior member K Kesava Rao.
On its part, the Congress is exploring different options to retain the post. It has already started the consultations with the Trinamool Congress which has 13 members and the Swamajwadi Party, which also has 13 members in the House. The Telugu Desam Party from Andhra Pradesh and Janata Dal (United) from Bihar also have 6 members each and their support is crucial for the next election.
The CPM and the Rastreeya Janata Dal from Bihar and Jharkhand will also be playing key role in the election of the next deputy chairman. The Congress is hopeful of having its member with the support of the Trinamool Congress and the CPM, besides others. In case Mamata Benerji gives up her claim and backs the Congress, the TDP from Andhra Pradesh would either remain neutral or will have to back the Congress.
The political corridors in the national capital are generating greater heat as just two weeks left for the retirement of the incumbent, Kurien, is fast approaching. It is to be seen how the BJP and the Congress handle this election, which is crucial, ahead of the general elections.
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