The Opposition and the Treasury benches have maintained a studied silence on their candidates for the post of Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha. One name has, however, surfaced as a possible neutral candidate, that of Naresh Gujral, Akali Dal MP.
According to top sources in the government, talks were held with Mr. Gujral twice, the second time by Union Minister Arun Jaitley on whether he would be willing to be an NDA-supported Independent candidate.
The idea was that with his contacts across the political spectrum, Mr. Gujral would not have too much trouble getting enough votes despite the government’s precarious numbers position in the Rajya Sabha.
Mr. Gujral reportedly said that he would not throw his hat into the ring unless he had bipartisan support.
“Too much of a hassle”, is what he is reported to have said in response to the offer.
Mr. Gujral has good equations across party lines: he counts Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as a personal friend going decades back and also Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.
In fact, Mr. Gujral was part of the team that midwifed the BJP-Telugu Desam Party alliance in the 2014 elections.
Both the TDP and the Biju Janata Dal are crucial in the polls, as the Rajya Sabha is evenly poised in terms of numbers at the moment.
Sources confirm that even Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has responded positively to the idea of Mr. Gujral as a bipartisan candidate after her own party’s efforts at projecting Sukhendu Shekhar Roy ran foul of the Left parties.
With the YSR Congress Party too, on Sunday night, declaring that it would not be supporting an NDA candidate for the post, and the spectre of his old friend Mr. Naidu having to vote against him, Mr. Gujral has decided to keep his counsel.