To scuttle the Congress's chances of winning seats by securing votes from elsewhere, the ruling parties in at least three states — Odisha, Karnataka and West Bengal — are looking for suitable independent candidates to contest for marginal Rajya Sabha (RS) seats.
A marginal seat is where no party has a clear majority, and has to depend on other MLAs to elect its RS candidate. Of the three RS seats going to the polls in Odisha, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is sure to win two. Of the five seats in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress will clearly win three and the Left is set to win one. In Karnataka, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is slated to bag two of the four seats while one may go to the Congress (K Rehman Khan is likely to be renominated).
In Odisha, the BJD may field former Indian diplomat Lalit Mansingh for the third seat. "Mansingh became the foreign secretary and the ambassador to the US during the NDA rule. He may be able to secure additional votes from the BJP," said a senior BJD leader.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar — an independent member — is likely to seek re-nomination in Karnataka because his term is expiring in April, sources said. Chandrasekhar, who enjoys the support of the BJP, may also find support from HD Deve Gowda's Janata Dal (Secular) party.
The Congress, eyeing a second seat, may support a Telugu businessman as an independent candidate.
In West Bengal, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee is looking for an eminent Bengali, who will be able to get extra votes from Left Front MLAs. After electing its candidate, the Left will still have 18 spare votes.
The UPA is already a minority in the RS. Loss of more seats for Congress will result in increased dependence on allies.