Uttar Pradesh Rajya Sabha Polls: BJP Eyes Ninth Seat, Edge BSP Out
The Rajya Sabha is the last remaining democratic institution that still holds the power to frustrate the Modi government. While it is in absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, the BJP currently has only 58 MPs in the Rajya Sabha. Combined with its allies, the NDA holds sway over an underwhelming 83 MPs.
It’s the one place where the Modi sarkar has been left red-faced over its inability to pass several important legislations like the Triple Talaq bill, the OBC legislation, GST, and even the Land Acquisition Bill. It’s where the Opposition, however divided, however unruly – still has a say.
Considering Prime Minister Narendra Modi is up for re-election in less than a year, the Rajya Sabha election this year gains a whole different level of emergency for the BJP.
On 23 March, 16 state assemblies will elect 59 new Rajya Sabha members.
The norm has been that most Rajya Sabha MPs are elected unopposed, or that each party nominates the number of candidates that it knows it can definitely elect. But it is unlikely to be such a predictable affair, especially when it comes to Uttar Pradesh.
In UP, 10 Rajya Sabha seats are up for grabs and each potential winner needs 37 preference votes to win. The BJP-led NDA has 324 MLAs in the 403 member assembly. Which means it can elect 8 Rajya Sabha MPs unopposed.
The Samajwadi Party has 47 MLAs in the House which means it can easily elect one MLA.
The BSP, however, has only 18 MLAs in the House, which will not be enough to elect its nominee to the Rajya Sabha. As part of an alliance deal, however, Mayawati’s party will borrow the 10 extra votes from the SP, 7 from the Congress, 1 from the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the RLD to elect Bhimrao Ambedkar to the Rajya Sabha.
But it’s unlikely to be a cakewalk for the BSP especially after it helped defeat the BJP in the bypolls to its bastion in Gorakhpur and in Phulpur.
On 12 March, the BJP announced three more candidates for the Rajya Sabha election. That’s three more than is mathematically possible for it to win.
The same day, Naresh Aggarwal, spurned at being not being nominated for the Rajya Sabha, joined the Bhartiya Janata Party. The press conference took a bizarre turn when Aggarwal said he’d been overlooked for the Rajya Sabha nomination for someone who used to dance in films. He was referring to SP’s Rajya Sabha nominee Jaya Bachchan.
Although this defection has nothing to do with the BSP, it could turn the tables on Mayawati’s plan to send her nominee to the Rajya Sabha.
Naresh Aggarwal’s son Nitin Aggarwal is a Samajwadi Party MLA; and on the directions of his rebel father, Nitin Aggarwal is expected to vote for the BJP.
Whether or not the BJP is able to win the seat, Nitin Aggarwal’s vote will determine whether Mayawati is able to send her nominee to the Rajya Sabha.
But Does BJP Stand a Chance of Winning a Ninth Seat?
The BSP claims that the BJP is now going to use money to lure more opposition MLAs to vote against the party.
But it will still be an uphill task for the BJP to win its ninth seat. It’s ally Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), which has four MLAs in the 403 member Assembly, that holds the key to the BJP nominating a ninth Rajya Sabha MP.
However, the SBSP chief has indicated that the BJP may not have a guaranteed vote from its 4 MLAs. “How can I tell you whether we will vote for the BJP or any other party in the Rajya Sabha election? We are yet to take a stand on this issue”, SBSP chief Omprakash Rajbhar told PTI.
Indicating that all may not be well with the alliance, the SBSP chief said they were not consulted before finalising their candidates for the Rajya Sabha elections and even the Lok Sabha bypolls.
“They fielded their candidates in the urban and local body elections, but did they follow the alliance dharma? In the Lok Sabha bypoll, did they ever ask the alliance partners what role they could possibly play”, he told PTI.
Omprakash Rajbhar also said:”Unless someone from the BJP asks us, how will talks take place? Should I go on my own and say that I will vote for you? Finalising the candidate is their job, not outs. But as a courtesy, they should at least once ask us whether we will join them in their campaign? Not a single leader asked us. In this scenario, how can I tell you whether we are voting for the BJP or any other party in the Rajya Sabha elections? We are yet to take a call”.
After, the Telugu Desam Party officially left the National Democratic Alliance on 16 March, Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party also warned the BJP against antagonsing its allies.
“Allies are getting upset. If the BJP does not take its allies in confidence, 2019 could be a tricky road for the saffron party,” said Chirag Paswan.
Earlier this year, Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray had ruled out the possibility of entering into an alliance with the BJP in 2019, saying the party was “demoralised” with Prime Minister Modi’s leadership.
Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), though a small alliance partner in Uttar Pradesh with only 4 MLAs, is the fourth BJP ally to speak out openly against the party. The BJP will be hoping to act aggressively to claim the ninth Rajya Sabha seat from Uttar Pradesh, especially after it lost Chief Minister’s Gorakhpur seat. But the threat of cross-voting by SBSP MLAs could throw a spanner in their strategy.
At the end of the day, we will know which MLA voted for whom, and if at all there was any cross-voting. It’s the only transparency that the Rajya Sabha election will allow us, the people.
(The Quint has given up the use of plastic plates and spoons in its cafeteria. This Earth Hour, what will you #GiveUp to save your planet? Use the hashtag #GiveUp and tag @TheQuint to tell us.)