An extra berth: On the Rajya Sabha election results  

The Rajya Sabha elections have allowed dissidents to find their voice 

March 01, 2024 12:20 am | Updated 07:47 am IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 30 of the 56 Rajya Sabha seats which are set to fall vacant in April, from 15 States, with the results announced on February 27. The party won two more seats than what its numbers in the State Assemblies would have allowed, by brazenly engineering cross voting by legislators from the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and the Congress in Himachal Pradesh. One BJP MLA in Karnataka crossed over to the Congress side. With six MLAs lost to the BJP, who have since been disqualified by the Speaker of the Assembly, the Congress government in Himachal Pradesh is tottering on the edge. Abhishek Manu Singhvi of the Congress and Harsh Mahajan of the BJP got 34 votes each and Mr. Mahajan was declared winner through lots. The Rajya Sabha polls brought the disenchantment within the Congress with Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu out to the fore. Vikramaditya Singh, a rebel Minister, announced his resignation, only to retract his statement. The Congress is making efforts to save its government, but the crisis is far from over. In Uttar Pradesh, seven Samajwadi Party legislators voted for the BJP, leading to the party winning an additional seat. It is not the first time that the BJP has fished in troubled waters to gain an extra berth in the Rajya Sabha. In 2017, Congress strategist Ahmed Patel managed to win by a whisker in Gujarat; and in 2020, the rebellion against the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan happened on the eve of elections to the Upper House.

The BJP now has 97 members in the Upper House, and, along with the allies, is just four short of the majority mark of 121 in the Rajya Sabha, where the current strength is 240. While successive victories in the State elections have helped the BJP improve its position, growing from 78 members in 2019 to 97 at the end of the five years, the party has never shied away from pushing the boundaries of normative politics to increase its strength. The gap between the BJP, the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha, and the Congress, which has just 29 members, is far too wide to be bridged any time soon. The other Opposition parties too have only a limited presence with the Trinamool Congress at 13, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Aam Aadmi Party with 10 each, the Rashtriya Janata Dal with six and the Communist Party of India (M) with five. In past parliamentary sessions, the Opposition members were frequently suspended whenever they sought to question the government, making Parliament a theatre of the government’s unilateralism.

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