Beyond the numbers: On the Rajya Sabha elections

Elections for 57 Rajya Sabha seats in the latest round that concluded on June 10 provide notable signals about the political winds in several States. Forty-one seats had single candidates who were elected unopposed from 11 States, while contests for 16 in four States — Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan — were eventful, and accompanied by charges of horse-trading, sabotage, and misuse of power by incumbents at the Centre and State. The BJP’s continued emphasis on backward classes and weaker sections was evident in its selection of candidates — reflected in at least half of the 22 new members the party brings into the Rajya Sabha. Three Muslim BJP MPs who have their terms ending in July were not renominated, and the ruling party will not have a single Parliament member from the community now. The Congress, on the other hand, continued to be tone deaf to the clamour for increased representation by weaker sections — eight of its 10 candidates were from dominant communities. The party pointedly lost the first opportunity to demonstrate that its Udaipur declaration that promised reforms in the party such as the ‘one family, one person’ principle in allotting tickets was indeed a serious effort.

The BJP’s manoeuvring capacity yielded good results in Maharashtra and Haryana but in Rajasthan, it had to eat humble pie, losing an MLA to the Congress camp. In Karnataka, the elections saw the Congress distancing itself from the JD(S), trying to emerge as the singular opposition to the ruling BJP ahead of the Assembly election next year. The new situation makes the possibility of an alliance distant, if not impossible. The BJP’s show of strength in Maharashtra has upset the calculations of the ruling tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), and threatens its government. In 2019, the strength of the MVA, comprising the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress along with a few independents and smaller parties, stood at 169, comfortably above the halfway mark of 145. Two-and-half-years later, the BJP secured 123 votes in the Rajya Sabha elections, while the MVA’s tally came down to 161 votes. Two NCP MLAs were in jail and could not vote, one Sena vote was declared invalid; one Sena MLA had died a month ago. Though the MVA government faces no immediate danger, the shift of at least 10 votes to the BJP has brought it closer to the majority mark amid murmurs of discontent within the three parties. Fresh talk of welcoming ‘disgruntled’ and ‘dissatisfied’ MLAs could well be possible in the coming days. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel have reinforced their positions within the Congress amid demands for their exit. In Haryana, the loss of one winnable seat due to internal feuding shows the inability of the Congress high command to enforce discipline.

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Printable version | Jun 14, 2022 12:42:23 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/beyond-the-numbers/article65523693.ece