The Bharatiya Janata Party is all set to make major gains in the Rajya Sabha this year, as, along with its allies, it is likely to get a good number of seats in the elections to be held following the retirement of as many as 65 MPs. As a result of this, the ruling NDA alliance will be in a better position to pass crucial legislations that require the approval of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
While 55 MPs out 65 are going to retire in April, the remaining 10 will retire in different months between January and July. Since many of the vacancies are arising in states where the BJP led NDA is in power, the composition of the Rajya Sabha is likely to tilt completely in NDA’s favour by July.
Some of the prominent members who are retiring from the Rajya Sabha this year are Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Health Minister J.P. Nadda, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawarchand Gehlot and Congress leader Rajeev Shukla.
At present, BJP and Congress both have 57 MPs each in the Upper House, while SP, AIADMK and Trinamool Congress have 18, 13 and 12 members, respectively. The House of 245 had seven vacancies, as on 31 December 2017.
It is to be noted that the process of election for three of Delhi’s RS seats has already started. Three Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidates—Sushil Gupta, Sanjay Singh and N.D. Gupta—have filed their nominations for these seats and are expected to sail through as the AAP enjoys absolute majority in the Delhi Assembly. Polling will be held on 16 January. Since these three seats earlier belonged to the Congress, the Congress’ number will come down to 54 later this month, and the BJP will emerge as the single largest party in the Upper House.
Hardeep Puri, a Union Minister, has filed nomination as a BJP candidate for a byelection to a Rajya Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh. This was necessitated following the resignation of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Increasing its tally in the Upper House will come as a big relief for the BJP as it has been finding it difficult to push through several legislations, due to a lack of majority. The BJP will also be able to nominate four members of its choice as the terms of businesswoman and social worker Anu Aga, actress Rekha, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and former Attorney General of India, K. Parasaran come to an end either in April or June. Though the nominated members are not bound by the whip of the ruling party, they generally vote alongside the treasury benches.
The total strength of the Upper House is 245 and for a party or combination to get 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, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi in the last five years, though it returned to power in Punjab. In contrast, the BJP-led NDA won these states—except for Delhi—apart from Uttar Pradesh, and in Bihar, where it is alliance with the ruling JDU.
Punjab, where Congress has formed government, will not have any vacancy until 2019 and therefore it will not affect the arithmetic in the RS during the current NDA government’s tenure.
The BJP is likely to gain the most in the forthcoming RS elections. It is expected to gain much from UP, from where nine members are retiring in April. The BJP has 312 out of 403 MLAs in the state Assembly. The other state where BJP has an advantage is Maharashtra, where six members are retiring. However, getting the seats there will depend on the Shiv Sena’s stand.
There will not be any change in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, as the composition of state Assemblies remain almost the same, compared to six years ago. There can be some gain for Congress in Gujarat as it has been able to increase its tally from 61 to 77 in the state Assembly.
On the other hand, one seat each in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh will likely go to BJP as the party has got a majority in the state Assemblies there. The lone member from Sikkim, Hishey Lachungpa of the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), a constituent of the NDA, is retiring next month. SDF is likely to retrain the seat.
Apart from UP, two byelections are due in the wake of the disqualification of Sharad Yadav and resignation of JDU member Veerendra Kumar, who was elected with the support of the UDF in Kerala. Besides, there are four more vacancies following the resignation of Mayawati (UP), the death of P. Govardhan Reddy (Telangana), disqualification of JDU’s Ali Anwar Ansari (Bihar) and resignation of Mukul Roy (West Bengal).