With Indian Politics at Crossroads, How Will The Rajya Sabha Look in 2019?
Members of the Rajya Sabha are elected to a six year term but every two years, one-third of the seats are up for election. Each state in the Upper House has a different number of seats, depending on its size and population.
File photo of Parliament.
New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat came to a nail-biting finish late on Tuesday night with Congress veteran Ahmed Patel winning the Rajya Sabha seat by just one vote.
The state of Gujarat had three Rajya Sabha vacancies in 2017. The 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly has been reduced to 176 after six Congress legislators quit. The number of votes required was 4,401, with the value of each MLA’s vote being 100. This meant a minimum of 45 MLAs needed to support someone’s candidature for it to be successful. After the voting was concluded, the Congress took the fight to the door of the Election Commission, claiming that two legislators had shown their ballot papers to BJP representatives. The EC then disqualified the two lawmakers’ votes, bringing the required votes down to 44 MLAs.
With 121 MLAs, the BJP had no problem winning two out of three vacant Rajya Sabha seats. These will be filled by BJP National President Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani, who had support from 46 MLAs each. The third slot was a high-stakes one for the Congress as party veteran Ahmed Patel, known to be close to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, was up for election to the Rajya Sabha. Congress had 57 MLAs in the state, six of whom quit. Of the remaining 51, Shankar Sinh Vaghela and six other rebels did not give Patel their support. This would put him at 44, just enough numbers to scrape through. A Congress MLA cross-voted, which brought Patel’s tally down to 43, one short of the required number. Another Congress MLA had his vote called invalid, further putting Patel in trouble. The game changer is believed to be one NCP MLA and the lone JD(U) MLA who is believed to have voted for Patel, bringing his tally to 44. Counting began after much late-night drama at the EC, after which Ahmed Patel was declared victorious by the skin of his teeth.
By all means, 2017 was a good year for the Bharatiya Janata Party. A thumping majority in the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand assembly elections early this year and government formation in Manipur and Goa lifted the party’s spirits and helped it cruise to an easy victory in the Presidential and Vice Presidential elections. But the saffron party is not done reaping the benefits of its victory. It is now setting its eyes on the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls.
Members of the 245-member Upper House of the Indian Parliament are elected to a six year term but every two years, one-third of the seats are up for election. The Each state in the Rajya Sabha has a different number of seats in the RS, depending on its size and population. For example, UP, which is India’s most populous state, has highest number of seats – 31. The state that comes second is Maharashtra with 19 seats, followed by Tamil Nadu with 18. In contrast, Uttarakhand and Delhi have only three seats each while others like Goa and Manipur have just one each.
Rajya Sabha members are elected by Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of that state. 12 of them, however, are nominated by the President.
The value of each MLA’s vote is 100. The total number of votes required for a candidate to get elected to the Rajya Sabha is [(Number of MLAs X 100) / (Vacancies + 1)] + 1
Take UP, for instance. The state has 403 MLAs and a total of 10 seats will fall vacant in 2018. So the number of votes needed is [(403 X 100) / (10+1)] + 1 = 3,664 votes. Since the value of each MLA is 100, a candidate from UP in 2018 will require the support of at least 37 MLAs.
In Goa, the assembly has 40 members and its one Rajya Sabha seat will be vacant this year. So the formula for Goa would be [(40 X 100) / (1+1)] + 1 = 2,001 votes. Here, a candidate will need the support of at least 21 MLAs.
Its emphatic wins in the recently held state assembly elections will not pay immediate dividends for the BJP. In addition to the three seats from Gujarat, there are seven other seats up for grabs in 2017. Six of these are in West Bengal, where the BJP has just 3 MLAs, and one is in Goa, where the BJP cannot send its pick to the Upper House without support from allies.
West Bengal: With 294 members in the state assembly, the number of votes needed for a Rajya Sabha candidate to represent West Bengal would be 4,201. This means that at least 43 MLAs would need to support a candidate for them to go to the Upper House. 6 of the state’s 16 seats will be up for election in 2017. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has an overwhelming majority in the West Bengal Assembly with 211 MLAs and is in a position to send five members to the Rajya Sabha this year. The Congress, with 43 members, has just enough votes to elect one member. Neither the CPM (M) (26) nor the BJP (3) are in a position to have any Rajya Sabha members from West Bengal.
Goa: The coastal state’s lone Rajya Sabha seat will be vacant this year and the battle is expected to be close. This is because no single party has a majority in the 40-member house. 2,001 votes are needed for a win, which means support from 21 MLAs. The single largest party in the assembly is the Congress with 16 MLAs. But BJP, despite having just 12 MLAs, had managed to stitch together a ragtag coalition with the MGP, GFP, independents and even the NCP. Assuming all BJP and Congress legislators vote along party lines, BJP would need the support of 9 MLAs and Congress would need just five more. BJP will depend on Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to keep the flock together.
BJP will reap the full benefits of its 2017 steamroll only next year, when 10 seats from UP and one from Uttarakhand will fall vacant. In addition to these two, there are Rajya Sabha elections in Jharkhand. Four poll bound states will also have vacant Rajya Sabha seats.
Poll-bound states: The states of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will head for elections in 2018. There will be five seats vacant from MP, four from Rajasthan, four from Karnataka and one from Chhattisgarh. These MPs will be elected by the newly formed legislative assemblies in the states.
Uttarakhand: The hill state has a 71-member assembly and a Rajya Sabha hopeful would require 3,551 votes or the support of at least 36 MLAs. This will most likely be a no-contest since the BJP has a majority of 57 MLAs.
Uttar Pradesh: 10 seats from Uttar Pradesh will be vacant in 2018 and the BJP will be in a comfortable position in the bellwether state. A candidate from UP will require the support of 37 MLAs. With 325 MLAs in 403-member assembly, BJP is assured of at least 8 seats. The Samajwadi Party (SP) with its 47 MLAs will be able to send a single member to the Upper House. However, if the factionalism within the SP refuses to die down till next year, the SP faces the risk of losing that position. It may then require the help of its alliance partner Congress (7 MLAs). The Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (19 MLAs) will not be in a position to elect even a single MLA, even if they were to join forces. In that eventuality, the BJP will walk away with 9 of the 10 vacant seats. However, if the Congress, BSP and both factions of the SP were to come together, they will be able to elect one more combined member to the Rajya Sabha, reducing the BJP to 8 MPs.
Nominated MPs: The tenure of four Members of Parliament, who were nominated to the Rajya Sabha, will come to an end in 2018. This will help the BJP nominate friendly faces into the Upper House via the President, further helping their legislative agenda.
Bihar: Six of Bihar’s 16 seats will be vacant in 2018 and the ever-changing political dynamics of the state make it difficult to ascertain who will be at an advantage. The JD (U) has 71 MLAs, the BJP has 53 and the single largest party is the RJD with 80. The total votes required to send a candidate to the Rajya Sabha is 3,472 or support from at least 35 MLAs. The JD (U) and RJD are in a position to elect two members each on their own respective strengths. The BJP can elect just one MP on its own. The Congress (27 MLAs) will be able to elect an MP with the surplus vote of its alliance partner RJD. If the Bihar Mahagathbandhan comes back together by 2018, the alliance will manage a near-sweep with five wins. But the arithmetic changes if BJP and JD (U) stick together. In that case, the NDA and UPA would each win three of the six seats.
Maharashtra: The number of votes required for a candidate to represent Mahrashtra in the RS is 4,115 or the support of at least 42 MLAs. Individually, the BJP can elect 2 MPs and the Shiv Sena can elect one. But if the alliance sticks together, they can strategically use each other’s surplus votes to elect a fourth MP from the NDA. If the Shiv Sena chooses to break ranks within the alliance, this would open up one seat for a contest. The Congress has just enough numbers (42 MLAs) to elect one MP while the NCP (41 MLAs) is one short of the winning number. Congress will not have any surplus votes left to help the NCP, which may have to depend on smaller parties or independents. However, even the slightest signs of defection or cross-voting could derail the plans of both opposition parties.
Andhra Pradesh: In the 175-member Andhra Pradesh assembly, the margin required for a winning RS candidate is 4,376 votes. At least 44 MLAs need to support a candidate for him or her to win. Three seats will be up for grabs next year. The TDP, with 102 MLAs, can elect two members next year. The support of BJP’s four MLAs will not change the arithmetic. The YSR Congress, a breakaway faction of the Congress, has 67 MLAs and will be able to win the remaining seat. The YSR Congress will need at least 21 TDP MLAs to cross-vote for the scales to tilt.
Haryana: One RS seat will be up for election in Haryana next year and the number of votes required is 4,501 (46 MLAs). The BJP (47 MLAs) has a wafer-thin majority in the 90-member house and will need to keep its flock together to ensure it wins the Rajya Sabha seat from the northern state.
Sikkim: Perhaps the easiest win for the NDA is likely in Sikkim, where Pawan Chamling’s Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) commands 29 out of the state’s 32 MLAs. Chamling will only need 17 MLAs (1,601 votes) to send his pick to the Rajya Sabha.
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