The BJP-led NDA is all set to consolidate its position in the Rajya Sabha to push its legislative agenda aggressively.
Last Thursday, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) became the largest party in the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, when Sampatiya Uikey, a woman tribal leader from Madhya Pradesh, was elected unopposed. Uikey’s election was necessitated by the death of Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave, in May this year.
This is the first time that the BJP has more MPs than the Congress in the 245-seat Upper House, although they still do not have a majority.
The BJP has 58 MPs followed by the Congress at 57.
Besides, the NDA fold, led by the BJP, there are 10 MPs from the Janata Dal (United), six from the Telugu Desam, three each from the Shiv Sena and Shiromani, in the Rajya Sabha. The People’s Democratic Party has two MPs, while there is one MP each from the Republican Party of India (A), Bodoland People’s Front, and Naga People’s Front. Four nominated members in the Rajya Sabha have joined the National Democratic Alliance.
The strength of the UPA in the Rajya Sabha with Congress at 57, Rashtriya Janata Dal -3, DMK,-4 and one each from Kerala Congress (M), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, and the Indian Muslim League, while nominated members total five in number.
The third set of MPs in the Rajya Sabha belongs to neither the UPA nor the NDA fold. They have been supporting the government of the day depending on issues or its own vested interests. These include Samajwadi Party-18, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham-13, All India Trinamool Congress-12, Communist Party of India (Marxist)-8, Biju Janata Dal-8, Bahujan Samaj Party-5, Nationalist Congress Party-5 and Telangana Rashtra Samithi-3. One MP each from parties, such as the Communist of Party of India, Indian National Lok Dal and YSR Congress and Janata Dal Secular are also there.
Yet, BJP continues to be in a minority in the upper house, where it has 88 MPs — 35 short of the halfway mark of 123. However, the fortunes of the grouping could change in the next 16 months.
In a Parliamentary democracy, such as India, the numerical strength determines the legislations, policies and programmes. Despite its brute majority in the Lok Sabha, the Modi government has faced several parliamentary hurdles to push through its legislative agenda due to its poor numerical strength in the Rajya Sabha.
The majority in the Rajya Sabha would not only strengthen to push through legislations but could also help achieve its greater goals of uniform civil code, eliminating Article 370 among other things.
The BJP is set to improve its tally in the coming weeks in the Rajya Sabha, by three more seats. Crucial elections will be held for six Rajya Sabha seats in West Bengal and three in Gujarat. While the ruling Trinamool Congress, which has a massive majority in the state Assembly, can win five out of six seats, the Congress can win the remaining. In Gujarat, the BJP will be able to get party president, Amit Shah and Textiles Minister Smriti Irani elected to two seats (vacated by its own members), while the third seat is up for grabs. The Congress has nominated Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Sonia Gandhi, for the third seat. At the same time, the BJP has put forward Balwantsinh Rajput, a former Congress MLA, as its candidate for the third seat.
The Rajya Sabha will witness elections for 45 seats from NDA-ruled states in 2018. Of this, the BJP alone could gain at least 15 seats on account of the assembly election victories in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, and Maharashtra, where the party has managed to form governments. The retirement of four nominated Rajya Sabha MPs over the next year, including both cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and Bollywood diva Rekha, is likely to boost BJP’s numerical strength further. Already, four nominated Rajya Sabha MPs have joined the BJP.
Similarly, Goa and Manipur too will add one MP each to the Rajya Sabha in 2018 and 2019.
Meanwhile, the Congress and its allies’ tally will drop by a similar figure. The decline of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha is linked to its poor electoral performance over the past three years and defections from some of its state units.
It is important to mention that 13 MPs from AIADMK will lend their support to the BJP as the party has softened its stand following the death of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa last year. Similarly, a section of the Samajwadi Party supporting Shivpal Yadav is likely to support the Modi government.
No doubt the NDA will still be short of the magic figure of 123, in the Rajya Sabha, but it will get significantly closer to it.
Things will improve for the BJP-led NDA in 2019 and 2020 if it continues to win successive assembly elections. Till such time it has to run the show with political crutches.