BJP all set to gain in Rajya Sabha after November as Opposition numbers drop by 9

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Hindustan Times, September 25, 2020

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is confident that the commotion that had erupted in the Rajya Sabha (RS) during the monsoon session of Parliament, which ended on Wednesday, following the Opposition parties resisting the passage of the contentious farms bills is unlikely to recur, as the party’s tally is all set to increase in the Upper House in November.

The RS will have 11 vacancies in November. The BJP’s strength in the 245-member Upper House is not yet close to the half-way mark. Of these 11 vacancies, only three are from the BJP and the rest are from the Opposition’s quota in the Upper House. While 10 of these vacancies are from Uttar Pradesh (UP), one is from Uttarakhand.

The BJP is in power in both UP and Uttarakhand, which will pave the way for its candidates being elected to the RS.

“The government has been able to pass bills that benefit people at large. Even though the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) have been opposed to many bills; other parties that are not part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) still supported the government because the bills were for greater good,” said a BJP functionary, who did not wish to be quoted.

The farm bills — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 — were passed in the RS on Sunday through a voice vote, despite the Opposition parties digging their heels in for further scrutiny and also putting up a stiff resistance.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the BJP’s ally, also opposed the bills. The SAD went to the extent of pulling out its lone member from the Union Cabinet, minister for food processing industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal, in a bid to put its criticism on record about the resistance to the passage of the farm bills.

The BJP leadership has slammed the Opposition for trying to stall what they call “revolutionary bills” that will change the farmers’ economic conditions.

Party leaders said there would be more ease in the passage of bills in the Upper House since its RS strength is expected to increase in November.

To be sure, the BJP has been able to pass contentious bills, including Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019; Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019; and this week, the farm bills, despite being far from the half-way mark in the 245-member Upper House.

The current strength of the RS is 243 because of two vacancies. The half-way mark is 122. The BJP has 86 members in the Upper House, its allies, such as the Janata Dal (United) has five members, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and the Republican Party of India (RPI), have one each and the SAD (2).

Several single-member parties such as the National People’s Party, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), and the Naga People’s Front (NPF) also support the BJP.

The Congress and TMC are the second and third-largest parties in the RS with 40 and 13 members, respectively.

Biju Janata Dal (BJD), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP), which are counted as parties friendly to the government, have nine each and six members, respectively.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) (3); the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) (7); the Shiv Sena (3); the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) (1); the Samajwadi Party (SP) (8); the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) (5) are among the parties that are in the Opposition’s camp.

The Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will lose two Members of Parliament (MP) each and the SP will lose four of its members because of the upcoming vacancies in the Upper House. The Opposition’s strength in the RS will come down by nine seats.

An increase in the BJP’s RS strength will mean widening the gap between the two sides. It will offer the government a cushion when the margin of difference is slim as was the case during the passage of the farm bills.

Though a division of votes was not carried out on Sunday, the BJP claimed to have 110 members on its side. Besides those absent from the Upper House, the Opposition’s strength was 109, which narrowed down the difference in the votes.

Political commentator Abhay Deshpande said a majority in the Upper House would give the government more elbow room, but until that happens, its floor management would be put to the test. “The burden to pass bills will be greatly reduced after it has the majority in the RS. But until that happens, the government will have to rely on its floor management. It has to reach out to friendly parties outside the NDA for their support,” he said.

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