The Congress has decided to field its nominee as a joint opposition candidate for the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman after the other parties that have joined hands against the Bharatiya Janata Party chose not to nominate their candidate.
With the deadline for filing nominations ending on Wednesday, the government on Tuesday reached out to the rival camp in a hope of building consensus on National Democratic Alliance nominee Harivansh Narayan Singh, who is from the Janata Dal-United.
At the same time, the Bharatiya Janata Party along with its allies was also trying to secure support of neutral parties like the Biju Janata Dal in the event of an election. JD-U president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar spoke to his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik seeking the BJD's support for his party candidate.
Leaders of a number of opposition parties on Tuesday met twice after which they decided to put up a united fight for the post.
Various opposition parties were asked to discuss the issue with their leadership and propose a candidate suitable for the post.
However, the parties including the Nationalist Congress Party, the Samajwadi Party, the Trinamool Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party and Left parties said they will not field any candidate and asked the Congress to put up its candidate.
"The Congress party will be putting up a candidate for the deputy charman's post," said a senior Congress leader after the meeting.
An opposition leader said though the name of NCP's Vandana Chavan was discussed, the NCP was not too keen on fielding its member.
As no other party wanted to field their candidate, the Congress was authorised to pick a candidate and all opposition parties decided to support the nominee, the leader said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar told reporters today that Bharatyia Janata Party leaders, including he himself, have contacted the Congress and other opposition parties as they wanted a consensus to emerge on Harivansh' name.
In Bhubaneswar, BJD spokesman Sasmit Patra said Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik will take a decision on the BJD's stand on Wednesday after Nitish Kumar sought his party's support.
Wednesday is the last day for filing nomination for the post and BJP sources said they wanted cross-party support for the JD-U leader and therefore refrained from making any formal announcement about his candidature.
The Shiv Sena said on Tuesday that it will support the NDA's nominee.
BJP president Amit Shah called his Sena counterpart Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday and sought support, Sena's Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut said in Mumbai.
"Amit Shah called up Uddhav-ji today and sought Shiv Sena's support. We have decided to give our support to the JD-U because the post of deputy chairman is apolitical," he told PTI.
The Shiromani Akali Dal also said it would support any candidate put up by the NDA.
SAD chief Sukbhir Singh Badal said there is no question of abstaining or not supporting the NDA's official candidate for the post.
Badal said this after a meeting with Shah on Tuesday night at the latter's residence.
"The Akali Dal is standing rock solid with the BJP. It would support any candidate the NDA fields for the post," he said.
When asked if there was any move to abstain from voting, as reported by a section of the media, Badal said, "There is no question of abstaining."
The NDA nominee is likely to get support of 13 All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam members and six of Telangana Rashtra Samithi, but the decision of the BJD, which has nine members, will be significant.
If the BJD backs the NDA candidate, his prospects will brighten in case of an election but if it abstains from voting, then his fate will become more uncertain.
The sources say the TDP has agreed to support a Congress-picked candidate.
In Tuesday's meeting, the opposition parties also discussed the matter pertaining to Nitish Kumar calling up BJD chief seeking support for the NDA nominee, the sources said.
The current strength of the Rajya Sabha is 244 and support of 123 members would be needed for a win in the full House.
The BJP is the largest party in the House with 73 members. Its allies JD-U, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal have 6, 3, 3 MPs respectively.
The BJP is hoping to get support of four of the six Independent members and three of the four nominated members.
The Congress has 50 members.