The Congress will remain the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha, but the Bharatiya Janata Party will make considerable gains following the June 11 elections to 57 seats in the 250-member Upper House.
The gap between the two parties will narrow considerably, providing solace to the ruling BJP. The party’s bench strength is expected to go up to 52 after the election, which was notified by the Election Commission last week, while the Congress’ tally will fall to 58 seats.
The BJP can also now count on the support of six new members who were recently nominated to the Upper House. The figure will go up to seven once the sole vacancy in the nominated category is filled. While these members can vote independently, they usually favour the government that nominates them.
The change in the composition of the Upper House will come as a relief to the National Democratic Alliance government, which, being in the minority, has been struggling to push through its legislative agenda in the Rajya Sabha.
For instance, the ruling alliance has not been able to push through the Goods and Services Tax Bill because it hasn't had the numbers in the Rajya Sabha. It has been dependent on the Congress, which has set three pre-conditions for supporting the legislation.
Gaining in strength
Of the 57 members whose term ended on Friday, 14 each belong to the BJP and the Congress. The BJP’s figure will go up to 17 after the June election, while the Congress' numbers will come down by eight. The Congress has got a bonus of one seat after the Supreme Court restored the Harish Rawat government in Uttarakhand. However, it is not in a position to win the seat from Gujarat which fell vacant after the death of its sitting member Praveen Rashtrapal on Thursday.
The BJP will pick up all four seats in Rajasthan as the party had swept the 2013 assembly polls in the state. Similarly, the ruling party will also be able win three seats from Maharashtra on the back of its outstanding performance in the 2014 assembly election. Among the BJP members who have retired are Union ministers M Venkaiah Naidu, Piyush Goel, Suresh Prabhu, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Nirmala Sitharaman, Birender Singh and YS Chowdhary.
Naqvi is hoping to return to the Upper House from Uttar Pradesh where the BJP can win one seat, while Goel and Prabhu will have no problems winning from Maharashtra. While it is certain that Naidu and Sitharaman will return to the Upper House, it is not clear which states they will be fielded from. Naidu had won his last seat from Karnataka along with Aayyamur Manjunath, but the party has the numbers to win only one seat this time.
If the BJP wants to field Sitharaman from Andhra Pradesh again, it will have to walk the extra mile to placate chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party. Naidu has been sulking because the Centre has yet to fulfil its promise of a special economic package for the redrawn state. Birender Singh will be re-elected from his home state Haryana, and MJ Akbar is likely to be fielded by the BJP from Jharkhand, where it can get one seat.
As for the Congress, there is no hope of returning for three members – JD Seelam, Jairam Ramesh and Hanumanth Rao – from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh as the grand old party lost control of the two states in the last assembly election. Ramesh is hoping to get re-nominated from Karnataka, where the Congress can win two seats. Sitting member Oscar Fernandes has already been named, but the second seat is up for grabs.
The strength of the Janata Dal (United) is set to come down from five to two as it now has to share the spoils with its Bihar ally, the Rashtriya Janata Dal. While speculation is rife that RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav will nominate either his wife Rabri Devi or daughter Misa from his quota, former JD(U) president Sharad Yadav is expected to return to the Upper House. However, there is still no clarity on the second name. The other four members who retired on Friday include party spokesperson KC Tyagi, Pawan Verma, Ghulam Rasool Baliyawi and RCP Singh.
The results of the Tamil Nadu assembly elections, which will be declared next week, will decide how the six vacancies in the state will be shared. The AIADMK has 12 members while the DMK has four, but the equation could well change after the results.