File photo of the Rajya Sabha, India's upper house of parliament. Photograph:( ANI )
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) became the biggest gainer from the latest round of the biennial Rajya Sabha polls on Friday and is likely to come within striking distance of being able to pass bills with the help of its allies and parties friendly to it.
BJP won 12 of the remaining 26 seats that were at stake in crucial Rajya Sabha biennial polls in seven states on Saturday amid high drama in Uttar Pradesh where it clinched an extra ninth seat overcoming the newfound bonhomie between former arch rivals SP and BSP.
BJP's winning spree in state Assembly polls has resulted in a steady rise in its numbers in the House, whose members are elected by assemblies, while the loss of power of the Congress in many states has led to a fall in its numerical strength.
In the elections held to 58 seats, the BJP won 29, the Congress nine, Trinamool four, TRS and BJD three each, JD-U, TDP and RJD two each and Samajwadi Party, Shiv Sena, NCP and YSR Congress one each.
Voting for Rajya Sabha seats took place across six states: Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Telangana. The Rajya Sabha vacancies include 17 from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and 12 from the Congress. The BJP has filed 18 candidates for the biennial polls.The Rajya Sabha has the strength of 245 members of which 233 are representatives of the states and Union Territories of Delhi and Puducherry. The remaining 12 members are nominated by the President.
The number of vacancies in 2018 included - Uttar Pradesh: 10, Maharashtra: 6, Bihar: 6, West Bengal: 5, Madhya Pradesh: 5, Gujarat: 4, Karnataka: 4, Andhra Pradesh: 3, Telangana: 3, Rajasthan: 3, Odisha: 3, Jharkhand: 2, Chhattisgarh: 1, Haryana: 1, Himachal Pradesh: 1, Uttarakhand: 1, Kerala: 1
In the poll for 58 Rajya Sabha seats on Friday, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) gained its 9 seats but remains short of the halfway mark of 123 in the Upper House.
In August last year, the BJP overtook the Congress to become the single-largest party in the Upper House. Currently, BJP is the largest party in RS with 58 MPs -- four more than the Congress - is expected to better its tally as it rules 11 of the 16 states. Its allies contribute 17 MPs to the BJP-led NDA. Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has six seats; Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal have three seats each; People's Democratic Party has two; Sikkim Democratic Front, Republican Party (A) and Bodoland People's Front have one MP each.
A calculation of tallies show that the BJP's strength in the 245-member House will go from the existing 58 to 69 and that of the Congress will fall from 54 to 50 when the new MPs take oath next week.
However, a majority in the Council of States will continue to elude the BJP-led NDA. It recently suffered a setback when the Telugu Desam Party, its ally of four years, decided to break ties. The TDP has six members in the House.
BJP and its allies hold an upper hand in UP state with 324 members in the legislative assembly and won 9 seats this year. However, the election this year will not benefit BJP much this year.
UP is the main focus in the Rajya Sabha: it contributes 31 of the upper house’s 245 seats, of which ten will have elections in 2018 and another ten in 2020. With a supermajority in the UP state assembly, the BJP is likely to win seven new seats from UP in each round (it already has three Rajya Sabha MPs in UP).
The government’s minority status in the Rajya Sabha has slowed and even halted important elements of its legislative agenda. An upper house majority would greatly strengthen its ability to pass bills including Article 35A - empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state's legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents.
The BJP has not reached the stage of having two-thirds majority in the Rajya Sabha. Even if it were to improve its numbers in the Rajya Sabha by 2020, it would still need to get requisite numbers in the next Lok Sabha elections and also convince its allies.
By 2020, the NDA would see a major improvement in the Rajya Sabha. If it continues its winning streak in the future assembly elections in Karnataka and Gujarat. If there is no change in the predictions, then the BJP by 2020 could end up with 81 seats alone. Its allies would contribute 31 seats thus taking the NDA's tally to 111. The Congress is likely to have just 28 seats in the Rajya Sabha. The UPA's tally would be at 56. The rest of the parties would have a tally of 78.
The NDA will be waiting for its turn in 2020 when nearly 73 Elders’ term comes to an end, but a lot would also be dependent then on the 2019 General election which Modi will be eying emphatically.