By Harihar Swarup
The biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha on March 30 for 58 seats will have significant impact on ensuring the stability of the UPA-2 Government till the holding of the next Lok Sabha elections in May 2014. Though the voting results in Rajya Sabha has no direct impact on the fate of the Government since the voting in Lok Sabha only matters, the majority of the ruling combination in Rajya Sabha matters in respect of passing key bills. So far, out of the total of 245 seats, the UPA-2 parties have 97 seats with the Congress figure at 71 and this was a drag for the centre in getting key bills passed in the Rajya Sabha.
The situation will not significantly change after the March 30 elections in terms of seats but the notable feature is the increase in the number of seats for the Samajwadi Party due to its massive strength in the present Uttar Pradesh assembly and the indication from the Party that it will go on supporting the centre in passing key bills in Rajya Sabha. This support of SP and BSP in the upper house is crucial for the UPA-2 in ensuring the passing of the key reforms programmes.
Personalitywise, the Rajya Sabha will change significantly with the BSP supremo Mayawati and former Deputy Chairperson Najma Heptullah, a BJP nominee, all set to enter the Upper house. Her party having been routed in the UP Assembly election, Mayawati has decided to move to national politics. She relinquished her Legislative Council seat. Her match from the Congress benches is likely to be redoubtable Renuka Chaudhary, seeking election from Andhra Pradesh. Renuka is already the Congress party’s spokesperson.
One, who will be missed is S S Ahluwalia, Deputy Leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha known for his lung power. When he was in the Congress, he was known as a member of the ‘shouting brigade’. He continued the tradition when he defected to the BJP and became the Deputy Leader.
Ahluwalia, who was an MP from Jharkhand, was denied re-nomination by the BJP’s High Command. The reason given was that he could not be fielded as the party was not confident of a win. The scope of a possible nomination from Bihar, as a third candidate with surplus vote from the ally JD(U) also did not work out, after later refused to give in and fielded former Minister, Vashist Narayan Singh.
Denial of re-nomination to Ahluwalia was not a sudden decision but one that apparently has a history behind the growing rift in the top level of the party. Differences between BJP President Nitin Gadkari and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, with whom Ahluwalia had a good rapport, could be the reason for denying of a Rajya Sabha berth to him.
The dropping of Ahluwalia means that the BJP will have to choose another Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha. Ahluwalia did not have many friends in the BJP though he had proved to be useful to his party in the Rajya Sabha because of his strategy, parliamentary skill and rapport with Congress leaders. He is likely to be replaced by the BJP spokesman, Ravishankar Prasad Singh, who has been re-nominated to seek election fromBihar. His victory is certain. Re-election of the Leader of the Opposition, Arun Jaitley, fromGujaratis a foregone conclusion.
All eyes are focused on UP, accounting for ten Rajya Sabha seats. The ruling Samajwadi Party is set to win six and among them is Bollywood star Jaya Bachchan. The BSP could win only two seats and its seats in the Upper House would be reduced.
Among the prominent faces set to go are former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi (Shiv Sena), who has failed to secure a nomination this time. So far as the Congress is concerned, it has dropped its spokesman, Rashid Alvi, who failed to secure nomination from Andhra Pradesh.
BJP’s Kalraj Mishra will be moving from Rajya Sabha to the UP assembly, as he has won the assembly election. The entry of film star, Chiranjeevi, who recently merged his party with the Congress, is also set to create a buzz. Another film star Hema Malani failed to secure a nomination from Karnataka in the wake of rebellion by former Chief Minister Y S Yeddyurappa.
The elections are all set to significantly impact the strength of several political parties this time. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is all set to improve its tally. The TMC is certain to win at least three seats.
From UP where ten seats are up to change, the Mayawati-led BSP is set to see its numbers drop from five to two. In contrast, the SP is set to improve its tally. While only two of its members are retiring, the party is all set to send six members. One of the BSP members, Naresh Agarwal, who is retiring, is incidentally to return as SP nominee.
The Congress has nominated former SP Vice-President, Rasheed Masood, who is all set to get elected while the alliance partner, RLD will lose its single seat from the state. For supporting the Congress in the Rajya Sabha election, it will get an MLC seat.
With the new faces coming in, equations are undergoing change and the composition of the Rajya Sabha is also bound to change. Election will be held for 58 seats. Some new prominent members are coming in, others bidding farewell. (IPA Service)