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September 2018
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National News
Harivansh elected Rajya Sabha deputy chairman, members say he must protect opposition interests
 
Moments after the result of a keenly fought election to the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s post was announced, political leaders cut across party lines to lavish praise on the victor Harivansh in a rare display of bonhomie on Thursday.

The Janata Dal (United) MP and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nominee defeated the Congress’s B K Hariprasad, the joint opposition candidate. Harivansh won 125 votes and Hariprasad 105.

Congratulating Harivansh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi jokingly said, “Ab sab kuch Hari bharose hain (now, everything is dependent on Hari).” It was a pun on the first part of his name, which is one of the appellations for the Hindu God Vishnu.

As the House broke into laughter, Modi added, “And I am confident that every member, be on this side (treasury) or that side (opposition) will have his mercy.”

Earlier, as Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu announced the result, parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar, his junior Vijay Goel and Union minister Arun Jaitley, who attended the House for the first time after a kidney transplant surgery in May, went up to Harivansh’s seat to congratulate him.

The three leaders then walked him to his new seat, in the front row next to the Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad. Opposition members including former PM Manmohan Singh also congratulated him as he passed by their seats. Singh also stopped Jaitley to inquire about his health.

After Harivansh took his seat, the Prime Minister walked up to his seat to wish him.

Congratulating him on behalf of the House, Modi recounted how Harivansh was a favourite of late former PM Chandrashekhar. There was a reason behind it, he said. “He was a journalist and was associated with a newspaper. But despite knowing about Chandrashekhar’s impending resignation in March 1991, he did not let his newspaper know. He maintained the dignity of the (PM’s) office”.

Modi said that it was also a matter of happiness for all members that Jaitley was back in the House after regaining his health. The PM said that it was a special day as it happened to be the Quit India movement’s anniversary and Harivansh was from Ballia, a place associated with the freedom struggle.

Modi also recounted Harivansh’s association with socialist icon Jai Prakash Narayan, who was from the same village where he was born.

“As a parliamentarian you had a successful tenure. But inside the House, more often, it is the umpires who are more concerned than the players. It’s a challenge to force members to play within the rules of the game. I am hopeful that Harivansh will do it successfully,” Modi said.

Leader of the House Jaitley said he is hopeful that Harivansh would help further improve the quality of discourse in the House. “In the House he has never made personal attacks on anyone… I am hopeful that he will enhance the dignity of the House and maintain a balance between government business and the opposition raising issues of public importance”.

Azad said that a Rajya Sabha deputy chairman does not represent any party. “I request him to look at the left and left of centre,” he said.

Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’ Brien said that though Harivansh was sitting on the right, he was hopeful that as deputy chairman he will look at “all of us.”

Welcoming him, Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu said Harivansh had a calm demeanour, which would help him in discharging his new responsibility as deputy chairman. “If some of you find me getting emotional at times about the functioning of the House, I can assure you that Harivansh is calm, cool and smiling all the time.”

After the leaders finished felicitating him, Harivansh got up to address the members. “Surrounded by so many experienced people, I am frightened today. But then this also gives me strength as I know you will guide me. I assure you that I will run the House in a fair and decent manner.”

Naidu invited Harivansh to preside over the Rajya Sabha proceedings after his speech was over. Amid the thumping of desks by members, he took over from Naidu. It was 1pm by then and his first order after taking charge was to adjourn the House till 2pm.


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