A keen contest between the National Democratic Alliance and the Opposition for the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman appears on the cards with Janata Dal-United MP Harivansh emerging as the candidate of the ruling alliance for the August 9 election.
The Opposition has often prevailed over the government in the numbers game in the House but the Bharatiya Janata Party is hopeful that it can get the better of its rivals with the support of regional parties such as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Biju Janata Dal, Telangana Rashtra Samiti and Yuvajan Shramika Rythu Congress -- all of whom have lent support to it now and then.
The Shiromani Akali Dal, an ally of the BJP, may abstain from the election, sources said.
The decision was taken at a meeting of SAD leaders at the residence of its President Sukhbir Badal in New Delhi.
The party has three lawmakers in the upper house, including Naresh Gujral, whose name was also in contention.
The BJP-led NDA lacks majority in the Rajya Sabha.
Leaders of opposition parties such as the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Left bloc held deliberations to choose their nominee and indicated that they will force a contest for the post.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu announced in the House that the election will be held at 11 am on August 9.
He also suggested that the deputy chairman should be elected by consensus. The nomination papers will have to be filed before noon on August 8.
The post of the deputy chairman has been lying vacant since June this year following the retirement of P J Kurien, who was elected to the Upper House of Parliament on a Congress ticket from Kerala.
While the BJP-led NDA did not make any formal announcement, sources said Harivansh, a first-time parliamentarian, is likely to be their choice for the post.
The BJP's decision to opt for a member of its ally as its choice is driven by its desire to be more accommodative to its partners, many of whom have often expressed their reservations at the saffron party's treatment of them since the government was formed in 2014.
The current strength of the Rajya Sabha is 244 and support of 123 members would be needed for a win in the full House.
Besides the nominated and independent members affiliated to it, the BJP is banking on the support of 13, nine, six and two members of the AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, TRS, YSR Congress respectively, its floor managers said.
If all four parties support the NDA candidate, then the numbers add up to 126.
However, even if parties like BJD or TRS abstain from voting, then things will become more precarious for the ruling alliance.
Both these parties had abstained during a vote on the motion of no-confidence against the government in Lok Sabha, while the AIADMK had voted with the treasury benches.
The BJP is the largest party in the House with 73 members, followed by the Congress with 50 members. The BJP's allies JD-U, Shiv Sena and Akali Dal have six, three and three members respectively.
The BJP also expects to get support of four of the six Independent members and three of the four nominated members.
Opposition parties are likely to finalise their strategy and decide the name of their candidate on Tuesday, sources said.
A meeting of the opposition parties was held on Monday, during which they discussed the strategy to get the required numbers to defeat the NDA candidate, a source said, but added that no Opposition candidate's name was finalised there.
"We have decided every party would discuss the names with their respective party heads and then have a final round of talk tomorrow to finalise our joint candidate. All opposition parties have also decided to talk to other independent members and a few of non-UPA (United Progressive Alliance), non-NDA allies," a senior opposition leader told PTI.
According to the opposition sources, Tiruchi Siva of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Vandana Chavan of Nationalist Congress Party and nominated member K T S Tulsi are front-runners for the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman post.
Telugu Desam Party, which walked out of the BJP-led NDA in March, was also a part of the Opposition meeting on Monday.
C M Ramesh of the TDP, who won Public Accounts Committee election in Rajya Sabha, attended the meet.
The opposition parties are in touch with the BJD, which has not yet specified its stand for the upcoming election, the sources said.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu announced today that the election for the deputy chairman's post will be held at 11 AM on August 9.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's Tiruchi Siva, Bahujan Samaj Party's Satish Chandra Mishra, NCP's Praful Patel, Communist Party of India's D Raja, TMC's Derek O'Brien, Rashtriya Janata Dal's Misa Bharti and Communist Party of India-Marxist's T K Rangarajan also attended the meeting in the chamber of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad in Parliament House.