As 27 Rajya Sabha seats from seven states go to elections on Saturday, a close finish is expected in at least four states where independent candidates have jumped into the fray, jeopardising the established poll arithmetic.
Altogether, 58 Rajya Sabha seats fell vacant from 16 states over the past two months. Of these seats, 31 candidates have already won unopposed and their results will be formally announced, along with the 27 seats, on Saturday.
This round of biennial polls is likely to see the strength of the NDA government marginally increase in the Upper House by one seat at the expense of the Congress and its supporters. However, this will not change the ruling dispensation’s minority status in Rajya Sabha.
In states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is backing independent candidates in order to rob the Congress from winning seats, leading to a keen contest this time.
The biennial polls have also been marred by the sting operations showing alleged vote trading in Karnataka, where four seats will see elections on Saturday. The Congress is set to win two of these, the BJP is sure of bagging one, but the last seat is up for grabs with former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda’s party, the Janata Dal (Secular) also trying to win it.
The Election Commission (EC) had sought reports from the state poll panel but finally allowed elections to go on as it didn’t find sufficient material in the sting operation footage to establish graft and either call off or defer the polls.
Uttar Pradesh has the most number of seats —11— but the last-minute entry of Preeti Mahapatra as the 12th candidate has turned it into a keen contest. Mahapatra is the wife of an Odiya builder based in Mumbai.
The list of high profile candidates contesting the polls includes former law minister Kapil Sibal from Uttar Pradesh and two other former UPA ministers, Jairam Ramesh and Oscar Fernandes.
The fight for the lone seat in Uttarakhand also assumes significance as it will show if the Congress is able to keep its house in order after suffering a rebellion in the state. The wafer-thin majority of the ruling Congress in the hill state can come under pressure if the
BJP is able to break its rival’s ranks and get its candidate a Rajya Sabha berth.
The arrest warrants against two congress legislators - Nirmala Devi and Devendra Singh has spiced up the scenario of the biennial election for two Rajya Sabha seats of Jharkhand in which the ruling and the opposition parties are locked in a see-saw battle.