THE RAJYA SABHA ELECTIONS AHEAD: IT IS GOING TO BE EVEN MORE DRAMATIC

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.

©SantoshChaubey

AN NDA MAJORITY IN RAJYA SABHA: NOT IN NEAR FUTURE!

The BJP and the alliance led by it, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), is now the largest voting bloc in the Upper House of the Parliament, the Rajya Sabha. But they are still short of majority in the 245-member House where a simple majority needs 123 seats while a two-thirds majority needs 166 seats in your fold.

Though The BJP is now the largest party in the Rajya Sabha, the edge is only razor-thin that doesn’t help it when it comes to the numerical strength to pass bills in the Upper House of the Parliament. The party’s 58 Rajya Sabha members of the Parliament (MPs) are just one more than Congress’ 57.

Also, after the dramatic political upheaval in Bihar with chief minister Nitish Kumar and his party Janta Dal (United) joining the BJP the NDA, switching sides from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the ruling alliance now has 89 RS MPs while the strength of the UPA that had 84 MPs, has reduced to 74.

But if we go by the composite numbers of the ruling alliance Vs the opposition, the BJP NDA is still short much short of even the simple majority in the Rajya Sabha, something that would continue to hamper its legislative agenda as the bills passed by the Lok Sabha, where it is in majority, may get stuck in the Rajya Sabha.

Most other parties of the others’ bloc, with parties including the Samajwadi Party (18 MPs), TMC (11 MPs), CPIM (8 MPs), BJD (8 MPs) and BSP (5 MPs, after Mayawati resigned last month) have 68 MPs if we exclude 13 AIADMK MPs who are expected to join the NDA soon. Their combined strength with the UPA takes the combined anti-BJP opposition number in the Rajya Sabha to 142.

Election for 10 Rajya Sabha seats will be held tomorrow, three of them are in Gujarat, six in West Bengal and one in Madhya Pradesh. Out of these 10, the BJP is expected to grab three seats or maximum four, if it can arrange numbers in Gujarat. The TMC is going to retain its five West Bengal quota seats and the Congress one with Pradip Bhattacharya slated to sail over. The TMC has re-nominated three of its RS MPs, Derek O’Brien, Dola Sen and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy while Shanta Chhetri and Manas Bhunia are slated to add to its RS ranks.

The BJP has two RS MPs from Gujarat who are retiring, Smriti Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya. The other one is Congress’ Ahmed Patel. The BJP has re-nominated Smriti Irani while party’s president Amit Shah and another candidate Balwantsinh Rajput are also in the fray. The Congress has re-nominated Ahmed Patel. So there are four candidates in fray for the three RS seats from Gujarat.

The lone RS seat from Madhya Pradesh fell vacant after death of BJP’s Anil Madhav Dave and will go the BJP again given its absolute majority in the state assembly with Sampatiya Uikey, a tribal face, set to join the RS for the remainder of Dave’s term till June 2022.

In Gujarat, the BJP is trying to wrest Ahmed Patel’s seat who can easily win the polls if all Congress and UPA MLAs vote for him. The BJP is trying to make a dent here. But even if it wins the Ahmed Patel’s seat, it will add only one member to its existing tally, i.e., 90 from 89, otherwise it would remain the same.

No other RS member is going to retire before January 2018 when three RS MPs from the Congress will retire. As they are from Delhi, the three vacancies will go to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that will effectively rule-out any change in the BJP Vs opposition equation of the Rajya Sabha. Another RS MP from Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) is retiring in February 2018. The SDF is an NDA ally so there will be no change even then. No members are retiring in March 2018.

The next big change is going to come in April 2018 when 57 RS MPs are going to retire including nominated members like Sachin Tendulkar, Rekha.

To continue….

©SantoshChaubey