The scenes did not appear to be business as usual when the Rajya Sabha met to elect a new Deputy Chairman on Thursday. The NDA was well prepared for what was eventually a comfortable win for its nominee Harivansh Narayan Singh, thanks to the Opposition’s poor floor management. A division of votes after an inconclusive voice vote saw NDA nominee Harivansh Narayan Singh emerge as the winner with 125 votes, while Hariprasad managed to secure 105 votes in his favour.
But the walkover of sorts by the Congress wasn’t what made the day’s highlight. Instead, it was the warm exchange between both sides, topped with a healthy dose of humour, that made the proceedings special. Even the jibes were plush with civility!
Rare scenes were witnessed in the Upper House on Thursday. Be it Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “koi nahi bike” swipe at the Opposition’s failure to get their candidate elected to the top post, or his reference to ‘Hari kripa’, alluding to the names of Harivansh and Opposition nominee BK Hariprasad, it was all in good humour.
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“This time, both sides in this election had a ‘hari’ (Harivansh Narayan and BK Hariprasad) but one had a BK. But koi nahi bike,” he said, apparently making a point that even parties outside the NDA camp had voted for its nominee.
Even the Opposition, which is otherwise unsparing in its criticism of the Prime Minister and his government’s policies, was sober in its conduct inside the House. After Leader of the House Arun Jaitley — who made his first public appearance after a renal transplant surgery — escorted Harivansh to his designated seat next to the Leader of Opposition in the House as per custom, Ghulam Nabi Azad remarked that he is now the Deputy Chairman of the entire House and should thus be balanced in his approach going forward.
“Harivansh ji is now the Deputy Chairman of the entire House. He may have been affiliated to a particular party earlier, but all that changes now. You may have had their support, but it is the Opposition that needs your care more,” he said. However, he was soon countered by the Leader of the House on this point.
After having congratulated Harivansh for his election, Jaitley, in reference to Azad’s remarks, explained why the Deputy Chairman is designated a seat next to the Leader of the Opposition. He said: “There is a reason why the Deputy Chairman has been designated a seat next to the Leader of the Opposition. It is because sitting across the aisle, you can see us better. Aap baithen to wahan lekin aapki nazar yahan rahegi. (You may sit there but you should always be looking at us)” Jaitley’s remarks drew applause from even the Opposition benches.
Venkaiah Naidu, known for his wit and humour, had a blunt reply to the exchange. “My advice to you as Chairman is – don’t look left, don’t look right, look straight and follow the rules and procedure.”
The icing on the cake, however, came from Harivansh himself within seconds of taking the Chair upon the invitation of Chairman Venkaiah Naidu who made way for the deputy. His golden lines: “The House stands adjourned to meet again at 2 PM after lunch.”
The remark left the entire House, including the Prime Minister and Harivansh himself, reeling in laughter.