Uttar Pradesh: BJP mulls over names for Rajya Sabha polls amid speculation of contest
Hectic consultations and lobbying were underway in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the announcement of candidates for the June 10 Rajya Sabha polls to fill up 11 vacancies from Uttar Pradesh.
The presence of a 12th candidate in these polls, whether fielded by these parties or in the fray as an independent, would force a contest.
The BJP strategists are keeping an eye on if the main opposition Samajwadi Party would like to force a contest by fielding four candidates, while being sure of an outright win of only three of the SP nominees for the Rajya Sabha polls.
“Let them decide. Either way, we don’t mind. If the SP fields an additional candidate, it would mean a contest and as of now, it is debatable if the SP, driven by inner contradictions can afford that. If they don’t, it would mean a no-contest with getting eight (BJP) candidates elected unopposed,” a BJP leader said.
The BJP too, on its own strength, will have surplus votes left for its eighth candidate after getting seven of its members elected without much ado. However, those surplus votes would not be enough to ensure a win of its eighth candidate (on its own) and should SP field a fourth candidate, it would set up a contest.
Since lawmakers in the UP assembly vote in these elections, these Rajya Sabha polls have boiled down to a straight contest between the BJP and SP. The two parties, together with their allies, have 398 MLAs in the 403-member assembly.
The BJP-plus allies have 273 MLAs, including the BJP’s 255, Apna Dal (Sonelal’s) 12 and the Nishad party’s six. The Samajwadi Party alliance has 125 MLAs, including 111 SP MLAs, Rashtriya Lok Dal 8 and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party 6.
Experts said that the BJP won’t mind a contest.
“If drawn into a contest, something that would happen when BJP puts up eight and SP goes for four candidates, it would all boil down to second preference votes. In 2018, during a Rajya Sabha poll in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP had demonstrated how they had astutely calculated even a fraction of second preference votes and allotted votes strategically to ensure a win of its ninth candidate and defeated a joint opposition,” said Athar Siddiqui from the Centre for Objective Research and Development (CORD).
Siddiqui isn’t wrong. Since 2016, when the BJP backed an independent candidate in an attempt to stall the Congress’ bid to get its candidate elected, the BJP has used these elections to the house of elders to demonstrate not just its political clout, but its ability to make inroads in opposition parties, too.
In 2016, the BJP had forced a contest by backing an independent candidate apparently in a bid to stop the Congress candidate from winning the Rajya Sabha polls. Though, the bid failed, the independent candidate backed by the BJP got 18 votes.
In 2018, the BJP again embarrassed a joint opposition bid by getting its ninth candidate elected to the Rajya Sabha by cleverly allotting votes and calculating a fraction of second preference votes.
In 2020, a few BSP lawmakers had backed the SP during these elections.
“Many a time, cross-voting by candidates in these polls also reflects how each party was trying to poach members of its rival. Like in 2018, two SBSP lawmakers despite then being in alliance with the BJP, had cross-voted. Similarly in 2016 and then in 2018, several SP lawmakers, now with the ruling party, had voted for the BJP. Even in this poll, Congress veteran Kapil Sibal being backed by SP as an (independent) candidate showcases how these RS polls are a precursor to the bigger political battles,” said Irshad Ilmi, a political observer.
There is much speculation on candidates that BJP would announce. “Many opposition leaders are also in touch,” said a BJP leader.
At present, the BJP has 22 of the 31 seats in Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh, the SP 5, the BSP 3 and the Congress has one member.
After this poll, the BJP’s strength in the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh could go up to 25, while the SP would have 5. The Congress won’t have any RS member from UP after July 4.
RAJYA SABHA POLL ARITHMETIC
Each Rajya Sabha candidate will need the support of around 37 lawmakers for an outright win.
If there are only 11 candidates against as many vacancies, all will sail through. A 12th candidate, whether fielded by BJP or SP, or an independent backed by either of them, would set up a contest, opening up the prospects of cross-voting.
The BJP-plus allies have 273 lawmakers. So, the BJP would easily ensure win of its seven candidates and still be left with 14 surplus votes.
Similarly, the Samajwadi Party and its allies have 125 lawmakers and would also be left with 14 surplus votes after securing the win of three of its candidates.
In case there is a contest, the RS polls would be decided on the basis of the second preference votes. The elections to the upper house of Parliament are based on proportional representation and single transferable vote, which ensures surplus votes of winners are transferred to the remaining candidates as their second preference votes.
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