Rajya Sabha Polls: All You Need To Know
Voting will be held on 23 March in state assemblies, and counting is expected to conclude by the end of the day.
Elections are being held for 59 seats in the upper house of India’s Parliament this week. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which continues to enjoy a majority in the Lok Sabha, has 58 seats in the 245-member Rajya Sabha.
Coming close on the heels of the party’s bypoll losses in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is attempting to turn the narrative in India’s largest state by capturing an extra Rajya Sabha seat from Uttar Pradesh. Elsewhere, the dynamics between the Indian National Congress and regional parties could give an early peek into which way political relationships are moving going into next year’s general election.
As Rajya Sabha elections are conducted on a party’s strength in state assemblies, many states – including large ones like Bihar, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh – saw no-contest. Many candidates selected by their parties will win unopposed. But in states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Jharkhand, the contest is going down to the last elector in the legislative assembly.
Uttar Pradesh: 10 Seats, 11 Candidates
The BJP is assured of victory for eight of its candidates from Uttar Pradesh, including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, whose term from Gujarat is coming to an end. With surplus votes after electing these eight, the BJP has put up a ninth candidate, Anil Agarwal. He will go up against the Bahujan Samaj Party’s Bhim Rao Ambedkar.
The Samajwadi Party has the votes to re-elect its current Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan and has said it will transfer its surplus votes to the BSP candidate, who also has the backing of the Congress Party. Over the last week, the BJP may have been able to wean away two MLAs from the extended SP camp.
BJP’s Agarwal as well as BSP’s Ambedkar will need the votes of MLAs outside their groups, to reach the support of 37 MLAs required to win outright.
West Bengal: Five Seats, Six Candidates
With more than enough votes to win four Rajya Sabha seats, All India Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee offered to lend her surplus votes to one of two Indian National Congress leaders to be selected as candidates by the INC: Abhishek Manu Singhvi or Kapil Sibal. The Congress subsequently announced the nomination of Singhvi who, with the Trinamool’s votes adding to his own party’s tally, is likely to cross the required threshold to win the seat. That leaves the sixth candidate in the fray – the CPI(M)’s Rabin Deb – well short of the support required to win.
Banerjee’s move to suggest Singhvi’s name potentially pre-empted any possibility of the state or national leadership of the Congress considering a joint candidate with the Left parties.
Karnataka: Four Seats, Five Candidates
Less than two months before assembly elections are held in the state, Karnataka’s current assembly dynamics allow the Congress to elect at least two Rajya Sabha members in the current round.
The party has also put up a third candidate to harness its surplus votes. The state Congress successfully pushed its central leadership for the candidature of local leaders – from state Vice President L Hanumanthaiah, General Secretary GC Chandrashekar, to Spokesperson Syed Naseer Hussain – over those it saw as ‘outsiders’ such as Sam Pitroda. The assertive stance of the Congress’ state unit on the issue of local identity has been simultaneous to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s unveiling of a proposed flag for the state – a long-standing demand of pro-Kannada bodies.
Entrepreneur Rajeev Chandrasekhar is expected to be re-elected by the BJP’s MLAs in Karnataka. The other entrepreneur in the race is the Janata Dal (Secular)’s BM Farooq, who had lost a Rajya Sabha election in 2016, and is likely to lack the required numbers in this round as well.
Telangana: Three Seats, Four Candidates
Telangana Rashtra Samithi president and state Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao visited Kolkata earlier this week, in an attempt to form a ‘Federal Front’ that would be positioned at an equal distance to the BJP and the Congress. The move came one week after the Congress chose to put up former Union Minister Balram Naik as its Rajya Sabha candidate in Telangana, although it has only 19 members in the 119-member assembly. The TRS has the numbers to elect all three of its candidates – Santosh Kumar, Lingaiah Yadav and Prakash Mudiraj.
Jharkhand: Two Seats, Three Candidates
The three-year-old BJP government in Jharkhand has put up a candidate for each of the two Rajya Sabha seats from the state being voted on in 2018. The Quint reports that the election of the BJP's Samir Oraon is a foregone conclusion, and that a face-off between multi-millionaires is building for the second seat. The BJP’s numbers in the assembly allow it to allot 20 MLAs to back its candidate Pradeep Senthalia, who would need the support of seven more legislators to defeat Dheeraj Sahu of the Congress.
Voting will be held on 23 March in state assemblies across the country, and counting is expected to conclude by the end of the day.
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