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Focus shifts to election of RS deputy chief
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 9
Now that the presentation of the Budget is over and Parliament is functioning smoothly, the UPA government is now focusing on the next item on its agenda — the election of the deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.

Although the NDA and the UPA had initially maintained that they were ready for a contest, the two sides are now veering around to the view that there should be a consensus on the choice of the presiding officer. The earlier Deputy Chairperson Mrs Najma Heptulla’s term ended on July 7, necessitating an election.

The Congress has staked claim on the post on the plea that at least one of the four presiding officers of the two Houses should go to the ruling alliance. While agreeing that there should be unanimity on the this issue, the BJP and its allies believe there could evolve a consensus on a non-UPA and non-NDA Congress candidate. The Congress has made it plain to the BJP it will not support Mrs. Heptulla’s renomination.

Since the 13-member Samajwadi Party can tilt the balance in NDA’s favour, there is a view gaining ground that the SP field a candidate for the post. Senior leader Janeshwar Mishra’s name is being mentioned in this regard. "If the BJP and the Samajwadi Party vote together, it will only expose the close proximity between the two parties," remarked a senior Congress leader.

Congress sources said if this proves to be a serious move, it will opt for an election even if it means a defeat. In such a case, the party could field a Muslim candidate so as to embarass the Samajwadi Party.

The names in contention include senior leader Mohsina Kidwai and Saifuddin Soz. Power minister P.M.Sayeed, who was deputy speaker in the 13th Lok Sabha, could also be named for this post, given his experience as a presiding officer.

Another view is that the post go to somebody from the South since the three presiding officers in the two Houses are all from the North. AICC leaders Vyalar Ravi and Janardhan Poojary are being mentioned as probables.

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