Rajya Sabha polls: BJP the largest party in Upper House but majority eludes NDA

Last Updated: Tue, Mar 27, 2018 12:37 hrs
Rewind 2017

March 23 was a good day for the BJP. The party won 12 of the remaining 25 seats at stake in the Rajya Sabha biennial polls in seven states. There was a minor setback in the state of Uttar Pradesh; a state cabinet minister cross-voted against the BJP. This puts another crack in the NDA alliance after the troubles it’s currently undergoing with the TDP.

After the counting, the party won 28 out of 59 seats which make the BJP the largest party in the Rajya Sabha but still short of a majority. The Congress’ seat share has fallen to 50 from 54. The polls were marred by cross voting from both sides. In what’s seen as revenge on the Samajwadi party (SP) and the BSP as all its candidates in UP were victorious.

With regards to the SP-BSP alliance, the BSP head Mayawati declared that the alliance with their former rivals was here to stay till the 2019 Lok Sabha elections stating in part, “We may have been defeated, but our party and SP workers will work harder, will full power, to stop the BJP from coming to power at the Centre. The Hindu editorial spoke to this unity in defeat mentality that the two parties are taking –

More than getting an additional seat, the BJP was hoping that the outcome would sow the seeds of distrust between the SP and the BSP. Although clearly unhappy with the defeat, BSP leader Mayawati was unwilling to let it jeopardize the nascent understanding with the SP.”

The UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath blamed the BSP's loss on the Samajwadi Party's "opportunism" saying in part, “The opportunistic face of SP has been once again exposed. It can take from others but can't give”.

She (Mayawati) saw it as a consequence of what she claimed was the BJP’s strategy to drive a wedge between the two parties. Instead of driving them apart, the result seems to have brought the SP and the BSP closer”.

However, she later backtracked stating that she would not instruct her party cadres for any of the upcoming by-elections in UP. This is a setback to the SP as they will have to go it alone in the by-polls till the 2019 elections. The signals seem to be mixed whit regard to this particular alliance.

In contrast to the UP results, which seemed to bring the alliance closer, in West Bengal, the results seemed to have furthered the divide between the Left and the Congress. The Trinamool Congress supported Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s candidacy but not necessarily for his party, the Congress. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banarjee is scheduled to meet Sonia Gandhi with the aim of discussing forming an anti-BJP alliance ahead of the 2019 elections.

In the state, the results went along expected lines as all four Trinamool candidates registered wins. The Deccan Chronicle editorial states that the result of the election reveals emerging line ups for the year ahead and for the 2019 polls –

On Friday, addressing the BJP parliamentary party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked MPs to remain prepared for the next election. This was the first time he was saying this outright. He urged fellow parliamentarians to farm out into the countryside”.

In order to pass any major legislation, the BJP will need votes from other parties as it still does not have a majority. If the parties retain the current numbers and strength in the upcoming assembly elections, the BJP-led NDA could reach a simple majority in the Rajya Sabha. More numbers in the upper house gives the central government more room to pass key bills by negotiating support from non-NDA parties.

The recent exit of the TDP from the alliance is a major blow, along with the BJP’s less than stable relationship with the Shiv Sena; which has stated its intention of going it alone in future elections. Non BJP and Congress parties won 21 o the 59 seats. This leaves no option but for the two major parties but to work with them. Coomi Kapoor, in a column for the Indian Express, writes on the consequences of the recent elections –

In Parliament, BJP president Amit Shah appeared chipper and confident despite his party’s setbacks in the recently held bypolls. The BJP may dismiss the Uttar Pradesh results as an aberration and the result of the arithmetic of the SP-BSP alliance, but there are clear indications that the party’s own cadre is unhappy”.

With regards to the Mayawati, the alliance formed between the SP and BSP is crucial. The BJP lost in Gorakhpur; the bastion of the Yogi Adityanath. Akhilesh Yadav stated that the party’s relation with the Congress is good and will remain as such going forward.

The increasing bonhomie between the SP and BSP, however, is not helping the Congress. Mayawati insists that any tie-up with the Congress cannot be restricted to just UP, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, but must extend across the country”.

The elections to the Rajya Sabha are not a reflection of the strengths of the parties on the ground. They can have an effect on the political calculus that regional and state parties have to make in the run up to the 2019 elections, but earlier than that, other local elections this year.

More columns by Varun Sukumar