Recent assembly election victories have brought the BJP within touching distance of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha, putting the ruling alliance in a position to push through key legislation mid-2016 onwards, an HT analysis of data shows.
The saffron party is already assured of 51 legislators – up from its current strength of 45 – when biannual elections for over 70 Rajya Sabha seats take place in 2016. This is due to the BJP’s strong showing in Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana and Goa.
The Congress’ strength will simultaneously dip to 54 from 69, owing to recent poll reverses and poor performance in states such as Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The government’s lack of numbers in the 243-member Upper House stalled its reform push in the recently-concluded winter session of Parliament with the Opposition, led by the Congress, disrupting proceedings over the conversion row. This forced finance minister Arun Jaitley to take the ordinance route for key legislations such as the insurance and the coal mines bills.
But this may soon change. Bihar and Delhi go to the polls next year and are followed by five states – Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry- in April 2016.
These states — where the BJP has seen an upsurge in popularity — contribute 16 of the over 70 Rajya Sabha vacancies to be filled in 2016.
If the ruling party keeps up its current momentum, it could pick up a large chunk of these seats and overtake the Congress on its own. An impressive performance by the BJP would also reduce the numbers of political opponents such as the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Trinamool Congress and the Left, all of whom helped the Congress scuttle business in the Rajya Sabha.
Moreover, seven of the 10 nominated RS seats fall vacant by March 2016 and will be filled by the ruling coalition. This, coupled with the fact that several non-NDA parties such as the Biju Janata Dal, the AIADMK and the NCP have cooperated with the BJP in Parliament, could mean smooth sailing for the government 18 months from now.
The NDA government also hopes to pick up a sizeable chunk of the 66 RS vacancies in early 2018, including Delhi, Jharkhand and especially Uttar Pradesh, which goes to the polls in 2017.