Janata Dal (United) leader Harivansh Narayan Singh was elected the deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. He was fielded as a candidate by the ruling coalition National Democratic Alliance.

He got the support of 125 members while three-time Congress MP BK Hariprasad got 105 votes. The post of deputy chairperson had been vacant since Congress leader PJ Kurien retired on July 2. This is the first time in 26 years that the post was decided through voting.

In his speech thanking the House, Singh said he was honoured to be appointed to the post. “I thank the members who voted for me,” Singh said. “I will do my duty for the country to the best of my ability. I come from a small village, which is located between Ganga and Gaghara rivers. I studied under a tree when I was a young boy. There was no proper road to our village. Back then, we only heard about New Delhi or Lutyens’ Delhi. I never imagined that one day I would hold an office as important as this in Parliament one day. My roots will keep me grounded, and I will give my all to the benefit of my country.”

Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union minister Arun Jaitley, who is on medical leave, was present in the House on Thursday for the first time since he had a renal transplant in May.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Leader of the Opposition in the House Ghulam Nabi Azad, and Jaitley congratulated Singh after his election.

United Progressive Alliance chairperson and former Congress President Sonia Gandhi rejected suggestions that the result indicated a failure in the Opposition’s attempts to unite. “Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose,” Gandhi added.

Bihar Governor Satya Pal Mallik and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar congratulated Singh on his appointment. Mallik said jos insights on society and culture and journalistic experience would help him in his new role.

Singh was elected with the support of the Trinamool Congress, the Dravdia Munnetra Kazhagam, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Telugu Desam Party and the Nationalist Congress Party. The Aam Aadmi Party, the YSR Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party abstained from voting.

Meanwhile, the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee accused Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of betraying the people by backing the National Democratic Alliance’s candidate, PTI reported. The Congress said Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal had supported its ally in an attempt to stop the Central Bureau of Investigation from exposing its misdeeds.