The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) victory in four states has given rise to hope amongst its supporters that it could lead to the strengthening of the party in the Rajya Sabha, thus enabling a smooth passage for contentious and pending promises, such as the Uniform Civil Code.
As many as 75 members are up for retirement this year, while eight seats are vacant, including four from Jammu and Kashmir. Out of the 75, elections for 13 seats are due on 31 March. Members from Assam (two), Himachal (one), Kerala (three), Nagaland (one) and Tripura (one) are retiring on 2 April, while five members from Punjab are retiring on 9 April.
The newly elected AAP has won all the five seats unopposed in Punjab, thanks to its mammoth victory in state elections. The composition of the Rajya Sabha is such that the party in power at the centre seldom has a majority in the Upper House. In fact, the last time any party had even 100+ seats in the Rajya Sabha was in 1988-90, when Congress had 108 MPs.
There are 245 members in the Rajya Sabha, 233 elected and 12 nominated. BJP has 97 members, including nine nominated ones. The party’s tally could rise to 100 after elections to the 13 seats as it is all set to win one seat each in Assam, Tripura, Himachal and Nagaland, while losing one seat in Punjab.
However, the euphoria is likely to be short-lived as its tally may go below 100 by the year-end.
Of the balance 62 seats up for re-elections, 11 are in Uttar Pradesh, six in Maharashtra, five in Tamil Nadu, four each in Andhra, Rajasthan, Bihar and Karnataka, and three each in Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
BJP has 30 of these 62 seats – 25 elected and five nominated. The party is likely to gain seats in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The BJP has five seats of the 12 due for re-elections. It is likely to gain three seats in Uttar Pradesh and one in Uttarakhand. This may take its tally to 104.
However, due to losses in state elections in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, it may lose three to four seats in these two states. The BJP currently has five MPs out of the six who are retiring. It is likely to win one, or a maximum of two seats from here. This brings it back to square one, at 100.
The party has three MPs retiring from Andhra. These are ex-TDP members who had left Naidu and joined the BJP. But the party is not in a position to win even a single seat. All of them are likely to go to Jagan Reddy’s YSRCP.
In Maharashtra and Rajasthan, too, it could lose one seat each due to the reduction in tally in the 2019 state elections.
In Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, it is likely to retain its tally of two seats each as the party has come back to power in these states after an internal rift within Congress and its allies.
Hence, out of the 30 seats of the 62 where polls will be held during the latter part of the year, the party could lose up to five seats on a net basis. So, it could end the year with 95 seats.
Among its allies, the AIADMK is likely to lose two seats, as it lost out in state elections to the DMK last year.
Regional Forces Will Play a Key Role
Currently, the Congress has 33 seats. It has 14 of the 75 seats up for re-elections this year. While it is likely to gain seats in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, it may lose some in Punjab (due to its big loss), Assam, Himachal and Uttarakhand. On a net basis, it is likely to lose two seats.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is set to become the fourth-largest party after the BJP, the Congress and the Trinamool. The BSP is set to be reduced to zero after its disastrous performance in the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh elections. Currently, it has three members.
Congress and BJP combined are likely to have 126 vs 130 seats currently. The balance 101, excluding vacant seats, are likely to be held by regional parties. On a net basis, the Congress and the BJP are likely to lose four seats, and all of this is likely to be lapped up by the AAP, which would also gain at the expense of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab.
In such a situation, regional forces like Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Jagan’s YSRCP, along with K Chandrashekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), are likely to play a key role in the BJP’s retention of a working majority in the House. While the BJP and the TRS are likely to remain at nine and six seats, respectively, the YSRCP is likely to gain four seats and end up at 10.
K Chandrashekar Rao’s adoption of a hard stance against the BJP, the BJD and the YSRCP in 19 seats provide the BJP with a buffer by either supporting or abstaining during voting on key bills in the Upper House.
(The author is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)