Though The BJP is now the largest party in the Rajya Sabha, the edge is only razor-thin that doesn’t help it when it comes to the numerical strength to pass bills in the Upper House of the Parliament. The party’s 58 Rajya Sabha members of the Parliament (MPs) are just one more than Congress’ 57.
Also, after the dramatic political upheaval in Bihar with chief minister Nitish Kumar and his party Janta Dal (United) joining the BJP the NDA, switching sides from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the ruling alliance now has 89 RS MPs while the strength of the UPA that had 84 MPs, has reduced to 74.
But if we go by the composite numbers of the ruling alliance Vs the opposition, the BJP NDA is still short much short of even the simple majority in the Rajya Sabha, something that would continue to hamper its legislative agenda as the bills passed by the Lok Sabha, where it is in majority, may get stuck in the Rajya Sabha.
Most other parties of the others’ bloc, with parties including the Samajwadi Party (18 MPs), TMC (11 MPs), CPIM (8 MPs), BJD (8 MPs) and BSP (5 MPs, after Mayawati resigned last month) have 68 MPs if we exclude 13 AIADMK MPs who are expected to join the NDA soon. Their combined strength with the UPA takes the combined anti-BJP opposition number in the Rajya Sabha to 142.
Election for 10 Rajya Sabha seats will be held tomorrow, three of them are in Gujarat, six in West Bengal and one in Madhya Pradesh. Out of these 10, the BJP is expected to grab three seats or maximum four, if it can arrange numbers in Gujarat. The TMC is going to retain its five West Bengal quota seats and the Congress one with Pradip Bhattacharya slated to sail over. The TMC has re-nominated three of its RS MPs, Derek O’Brien, Dola Sen and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy while Shanta Chhetri and Manas Bhunia are slated to add to its RS ranks.
The BJP has two RS MPs from Gujarat who are retiring, Smriti Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya. The other one is Congress’ Ahmed Patel. The BJP has re-nominated Smriti Irani while party’s president Amit Shah and another candidate Balwantsinh Rajput are also in the fray. The Congress has re-nominated Ahmed Patel. So there are four candidates in fray for the three RS seats from Gujarat.
The lone RS seat from Madhya Pradesh fell vacant after death of BJP’s Anil Madhav Dave and will go the BJP again given its absolute majority in the state assembly with Sampatiya Uikey, a tribal face, set to join the RS for the remainder of Dave’s term till June 2022.
In Gujarat, the BJP is trying to wrest Ahmed Patel’s seat who can easily win the polls if all Congress and UPA MLAs vote for him. The BJP is trying to make a dent here. But even if it wins the Ahmed Patel’s seat, it will add only one member to its existing tally, i.e., 90 from 89, otherwise it would remain the same.
No other RS member is going to retire before January 2018 when three RS MPs from the Congress will retire. As they are from Delhi, the three vacancies will go to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that will effectively rule-out any change in the BJP Vs opposition equation of the Rajya Sabha. Another RS MP from Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) is retiring in February 2018. The SDF is an NDA ally so there will be no change even then. No members are retiring in March 2018.
The next big change is going to come in April 2018 when 57 RS MPs are going to retire including nominated members like Sachin Tendulkar, Rekha.