As many as 66 members are retiring in April next year, with major vacancies coming from Uttar Pradesh (9), Maharashtra and Bihar (6 each), Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal (5 each) and Karnataka and Gujarat (4 each). Since the BJP/NDA is in a majority in most of the states from where vacancies will be arising, the alliance, in all likelihood, will get a clear cut majority by April next year.
The BJP became the single largest party this week in the Upper House when Sampatiya Uikey got elected unopposed, increasing its tally to 58, surpassing Congress’ 57.
This is for the first time that the BJP has more MPs than the Congress in the 245-seat Rajya Sabha, although it still does not have a majority. However, after the JDU joining hands with the BJP, the strength of the NDA has increased to 86. There is speculation of AIADMK (13), too, joining the NDA fold. If that happens, the NDA’s strength will increase to 99.
The total strength of the Upper House is 245 and for a party or combination to have a majority, it needs the support of 123 members. The composition of the state Assemblies has changed, with Congress losing power in Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi in the last five years, though it gained in Punjab. In contrast, the BJP/NDA gained in these states (except Delhi), along with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Rajya Sabha elections are taking place next week for six seats in West Bengal and three in Gujarat. It is expected that the ruling Trinamool Congress, which has a majority in the Bengal Assembly, may win five, while Congress may win one seat. In Gujarat, it is expected that BJP candidates Amit Shah and Smriti Irani will get elected, while there is going to be an interesting contest between Balwantsinh Rajput, a former Congress MLA, and Congress’ Ahmed Patel.
Those retiring from the Rajya Sabha in April next year also include three nominated members—Rekha, Sachin Tendulkar and Anu Aga. Though nominated members are not bound by the whip of the ruling party, they generally vote alongside the Treasury Benches in the Upper House.
Sources said that if the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) also extend issue-based support to the NDA, it will be a further boost for the alliance as the BJD has eight members, while TRS has three. Punjab, where Congress has formed the government, will not have any vacancy till 2019 and, therefore, this will not affect the arithmetic within the RS during the current NDA regime.
According to a BJP leader, the Rajya Sabha has always been a stumbling block in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s legislative agenda; a majority, therefore, will come as a major boost for him. A majority in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will help the Prime Minister bring about major policy changes a year before the 2019 general elections.