Every Rajya Sabha (RS) election has become a talking point as it is in the Upper House of the Parliament where the ruling BJP finds itself in minority especially when it comes to passing bills and regulating the legislative agenda of the House. The drama and suspense around the election of three Rajya Seats from Gujarat can be seen in this context.
The Rajya Sabha elections for ten RS seats spread across three states, i.e., West Bengal, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, became dramatic this time thanks to Gujarat which is seeing a contest for the first time since 1996. Here, four candidates, including BJP heavyweights Amit Shah and Smriti Irani and Sonia Gandhi’s confidante Amhed Patel, were in fray for three seats and midst reports of cross-voting and other election code violations, the Election Commission had to withhold the counting procedure. It invited the parties, listened to their complaints, deliberated on legalities and finally came to the conclusion that the Congress was right that finally paved the way for Ahmed Patel’s victory.
Candidates for other seats, i.e., six in West Bengal and one in Madhya Pradesh, were elected unopposed.
Though the BJP and its coalition of parties known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are now the largest bloc in the Rajya Sabha, they are still far from, either the simple majority or two-thirds majority. A simple majority in the 245-member House needs 123 seats while a two-thirds majority needs 166 seats. And yesterday’s elections are not going to change that as the parties have retained their respective seats.
The BJP which is now the largest party in the Rajya Sabha has just one seat more than the Congress’ 57. Also, its coalition is in no better shape. After the dramatic political upheaval in Bihar with chief minister Nitish Kumar and his party Janata Dal (United) joining the NDA, switching sides from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the ruling alliance though now has 89 RS MPs, it is still 34 seats away from the simple majority in the House even if Nitish’s act has brought down the strength of the UPA from 84 to 74 MPs in the RS.
Following is the spread-sheet based on Rajya Sabha and Election Commission data that explains when the next Rajya Sabha elections in different states are going to be held. The table shows state-wise and tenure-wise retirement of the members of the Rajya Sabha which sees biennial elections to replace its one third members who retire every two years.
The table also shows the incumbent governments in states and when the next assembly elections are due there as it is the strength in the legislative assemblies that determines the outcome of the RS election. According to the information available on Rajya Sabha’s website, 67 RS MPs are retiring next year while in 2019, the year when the next General Elections are due, only 8 RS MPs are scheduled to retire. The BJP can expect to consolidate its position further in 2018 when 42 RS seats to be filled will fall in the NDA led states but the Gujarat experience says it is not going to be smooth road ahead.
The huge majority in Uttar Pradesh is expected to give BJP seven new RS seats out of nine falling vacant next year from the state but the party or its coalition partners don’t enjoy that advantage in other states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar. Also, the future assembly elections will further add to that sense of unpredictability.