August 7, 2017
Venkaiah Naidu’s election as the next vice-president had been a foregone conclusion, but not his victory margin. As it transpired, Opposition candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi got 19 votes less than he was supposed to, that many members of the two Houses of Parliament who had pledged their support to him ending up not voting for him. Of equal concern, if of a different kind, is the inability of 11Members of Parliament to vote right, resulting in their votes being invalid. It is time the Election Commission introduced electronic voting machines in gubernatorial elections as well.
For the Opposition, how big a setback is their candidate’s loss and does it offer a foretaste of how things will pan out in 2019? By other indications, such as the successful and aggressive politics of the BJP that has allowed it to add state after major state to its kitty and instal its partymen and pliant fellow-travellers as chief ministers, it is well on its way to secure another mandate in the next general elections.
But to draw the same conclusion from the vice-presidential election would be wrong. For one, the votes Gandhi got overstates the Opposition’s ability to oppose the BJP in 2019. A united front at the level of MPs does not mean that they would be able to contain their natural inclination to fight one another, apart from the BJP, in the general elections. For another, the Naidu tally overstates the BJP’s support. Opportunist MPs who want to be in the ruling party’s good books and resort to cross-voting are not necessarily expert poll forecasters who modulate their voting according to which way the electoral wind blows.
Naidu has done well to declare his intention to be non-partisan as vice-chairman of the Upper House. Appearances matter, too, in a democracy.