Deccan Herald, May 12, 2021
Comprehensively winning the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, barely nine months away from now, is important for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) not only in the context of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls but to keep its numbers in the Rajya Sabha robust.
The BJP’s failure to win West Bengal, its lack of success to improve by any significant margin its numbers in the other states that went to the polls in April, and its string of poor shows in most Assembly polls held since December 2018 have meant its numbers in the Rajya Sabha could start declining by July 2022.
The BJP would need a repeat of its 2017 Assembly performance in UP, when it won 325 of the 403-seats, to arrest the dwindling of its Rajya Sabha numbers.
At the current juncture, this looks like a difficult task because of the Covid19 spread in the state and the anti-farm laws protests. The party’s UP leadership has spent the last one week trying to dispel the perception that it was jolted in the recently concluded panchayat polls in the state.
From April to August 2022, as many as 75 MPs – nearly a fourth of Rajya Sabha’s 245 MPs – will retire. MPs will retire from several states where the BJP was the ruling party but performed poorly since the end of 2018, including in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand.
Of the 75-seats, 11 are from UP, all of which are to be filled by July of next year, that is after three months of the Assembly polls in UP. Of the 11, BJP currently holds five seats. UP sends 31 MPs to the Rajya Sabha.
Even now, the BJP’s dominance of the Lok Sabha conceals its lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha. The BJP is at 95 MPs in the Upper House, two dozen short of the majority mark of 123 in a House of 245 MPs. Of the BJP’s 95, 22 MPs, or more than a fifth, are from UP.
Even the BJP’s 95 was reached by getting eight of the 12 nominated members in the Rajya Sabha to join its ranks and engineering defections in the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Samajwadi Party.
The exit of old allies, like the Shiromani Akali Dal and Shiv Sena, in the last two years has chipped away at the numbers of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which the BJP leads. The AIADMK’s loss in Tamil Nadu will further decrease NDA’s numbers.
A small silver lining for the BJP is the seven current vacancies (apart from the 75 vacancies that will come up between April to August next year) that are to be filled immediately. These include a vacancy from Bihar and two nominated members, which could help BJP inch closer to the century mark. But that number might turn out to be its best until the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Of the 75-seats, four seats will fall vacant in Andhra Pradesh in April 2022. Thanks to poaching the TDP, the BJP currently holds three of the four. Given the YSR Congress Party’s brute majority of 151-seats in a 175-member Andhra Assembly, all four are likely to be won by that party.
Of the four seats from Rajasthan to fall vacant in July 2022, the BJP currently holds all four. The Congress majority in the Rajasthan Assembly could redress the situation in its favour with it winning at least three of the four. Two vacancies will arise from Jharkhand, both of which are currently with the BJP. Here again, the BJP could lose at least one seat to the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-Congress alliance.
Of the two seats to fall vacant from Chhattisgarh, the BJP currently holds one, which it might lose given the Congress numbers in the Chhattisgarh Assembly. It seems unlikely that either the BJP or its former ally, the SAD, might turn the corner in the Punjab Assembly polls in February 2022, and the BJP could lose the lone Rajya Sabha seat that it holds from that state.
Compared to its losses, the BJP’s gains will be marginal. It is likely to win the lone vacancies to arise from Himachal Pradesh and Tripura, and one of the two vacancies from Assam.
Bihar and Maharashtra numbers are unlikely to change, and spoils set to be shared equally, given the near stalemate in the strengths of the respective alliances in the two states.<br>Even the BJP’s allies are likely to suffer. Of the six seats to fall vacant from Tamil Nadu, AIADMK, an ally of the BJP, currently holds four and could lose at least half of these to the DMK.
Unless it performs a miracle in UP, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha numbers are set to decline in the remainder of its current term at the Centre, which would make it difficult for the government to push through contentious constitution amendment bills.
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