**New Delhi:** The stage is set for an electoral battle on Thursday between NDA’s Harivansh Narayan Singh and joint opposition candidate B.K. Hariprasad for the post of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman.
The candidates filed their nomination papers on Wednesday before Rajya Sabha Secretary General Desh Deepak Verma. The post fell vacant after P.J. Kurien retired in July.
Union Ministers Ananth Kumar, Piyush Goyal, Vijay Goel along with leaders of the Akali Dal, the Shiv Sena and other NDA constituents were present when Narayan Singh of the Janata Dal-United filed his papers.
“I am 100 per cent confident of winning. The NDA is a team and we will win,” he told reporters.
Harivansh, a first-timer in the Upper House and a former editor of Hindi daily Prabhat Khabar, is considered close to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
The Shiv Sena, a sulking BJP ally, and Akali Dal on Tuesday said they would support the NDA nominee.
BJP president Amit Shah, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Bihar Chief Minister and JD-U President Nitish Kumar have also spoken with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik separately and sought his Biju Janata Dal’s support for the NDA nominee.
Nitish Kumar also spoke to Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) Chief and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao seeking support.
However, the BJD and the TRS have not yet made their stand clear while the YSR Congress has said it would vote against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate.
Hariprasad, a Congress MP from Karnataka, who was on Wednesday declared as the opposition candidate, is into his third term in the Rajya Sabha.
Talking to reporters, Congress leader Anand Sharma said five sets of nomination papers — five proposers and five seconders — were filed by the combined opposition.
Sharma, accompanied by Hariprasad and NCP MP Vandana Chavan, accused the government and the BJP of “using every tactic, using the influence of their authority and power just to swing the election”.
Sharma said the opposition has the numbers and there will be a contest.
He said Hariprasad is a “formidable” and “better” candidate than of the ruling National Democratic Alliance.
“The BJP, if it had the majority, should have fielded its own candidate…They lacked majority and that’s why they are desperate to reach out to others outside the fold of the NDA,” Sharma said.
The election is likely to be a close affair as the opposition bloc has an edge over the BJP-led NDA in terms of numbers in the Upper House.
The outcome will depend on the stance of parties such as the BJD, the AIADMK and the TRS — which could ally with the government in certain situations.
The election will be held a day before the conclusion of the monsoon session of Parliament.