Rajya Sabha deputy chairman poll: Naveen Patnaik keeps cards close to chest

By: | Published: August 9, 2018 12:48 AM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up BJD president Naveen Patnaik today seeking his party's support for the NDA candidate in the election to the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman tomorrow.

Rajya Sabha, Rajya Sabha polls, Naveen Patnaik, Rajya Sabha deputy chairman poll, Narendra Modi, BJP, BJD, indiaBJD president Naveen Patnaik. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up BJD president Naveen Patnaik today seeking his party’s support for the NDA candidate in the election to the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman tomorrow, but the Odisha chief minister preferred to keep the cards close to his chest. Modi telephoned Patnaik when the latter was attending an investment meet in Mumbai and asked for support of the nine BJD MPs to the NDA candidate – Harivansh Narayan Singh of the JD(U), BJD sources said here.

Patnaik, however, has not given him any assurance regarding the BJD’s stand. “Patnaik is likely to announce the BJD’s stand on the election to the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman an hour before the voting tomorrow,” the sources said. The party would keep in mind its policy of maintaining equal distance from both the Congress-led UPA and BJP-led NDA while making a decision, the sources said.

After JD(U) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar sought his party’s support yesterday, BJD spokesman Sasmit Patra had said Patnaik would decide on the the party’s stand today. NDA candidate Harivansh met the BJD’s Rajya Sabha members in Parliament today and sought their support, the party leader in Rajya Sabha Prasanna Acharya told PTI over the phone. Asked if the UPA candidate, B K Hariprasad, also met the BJD MPs, Acharya said, “No.”

When contacted, Hariprasad said senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel have spoken to Patnaik to seek the support of BJD MPs. “We are optimistic to win the poll, but a lot depends on the decision of the BJD,” he said. The vote of the BJD’s nine MPs is considered crucial as neither the NDA nor the UPA candidate has the required numbers to win the election. The current strength of the Rajya Sabha is 244 and support of 123 members is required for a candidate to win.

BJP president Amit Shah, NCP leader Sharad Pawar and Union minister Rajnath Singh had also called Patnaik yesterday to seek the BJD’s support for the election tomorrow. Recently, Shah had praised the BJD for its support on the National Register of Citizens issue. The BJD was the only political party other than the BJP which had supported the NRC. Earlier, the BJD had also supported the NDA on several issues such as the presidential elections, demonetisation and GST.

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