Rajya Sabha polls: BJP to improve tally, but not enough to push amendments

Indian parliament

The Election Commission on Friday announced that polling for 58 Rajya Sabha seats, set to fall vacant in April, will take place on March 23. The counting of votes will also take place on the same day.

With barely a year left in the life of the current Lok Sabha, the changed Rajya Sabha numbers would have more of an impact in the first couple of years of the next Lok Sabha. Nearly a third of the members of the 245-seat Rajya Sabha retire every two years, and the changed numbers would determine the complexion of the House until April 2020.

The results will increase the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tally in the Rajya Sabha. But the BJP, along with its allies, and even friendly parties, like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), would still lack the numbers to push through a constitutional amendment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been calling for simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls. But the constitution needs to be amended for this. A constitution amendment needs to be passed by a two-thirds majority.

Delivering the 15th DT Lakdawala Memorial Lecture on Friday, former president Pranab Mukherjee indicated simultaneous polls were impractical. He said the simultaneous election of assembly and Parliament would be difficult to hold, even by bringing an amendment to the Constitution.

The BJP currently has 58 members in the Rajya Sabha. It could add at least 15 seats to this tally in the March 23 elections. Most of its gains will come from Uttar Pradesh. But, the party will continue to be short of the majority mark of 123 seats in the 245-member Rajya Sabha.

The number of seats falling vacant are - Andhra Pradesh 3, Bihar 6, Chhattisgarh 1, Gujarat 4, Haryana 1, Himachal 1, Karnataka 4, Madhya Pradesh 5, Maharashtra 6, Telangana 3, Uttar Pradesh 10, Uttarakhand 1, West Bengal 5, Odisha 3, Rajasthan 3 and Jharkhand 2.

The BJP will gain in Uttar Pradesh, where it won a comprehensive election victory in March 2017, and also Uttarakhand. While the BJP performed poorly in the 2015 Bihar assembly polls, it is set to retain its seats in the state now that Janata Dal (United) is an ally.

The biggest loser of the Rajya Sabha elections would be the Samajwadi Party.


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