59 Rajya Sabha seats up for grabs, but all eyes on one in UP
There are in all 11 candidates, including Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, in the fray for the 10 seats for which polling will take place on Friday.Updated: Mar 22, 2018 22:47 IST
As legislators across 19 states on Friday vote to elect 59 members to the Rajya Sabha, all eyes are fixed on a single seat in Uttar Pradesh.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is assured of winning at least eight out of the 10 Rajya Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh while the Samajwadi Party (SP) is set to win one. But the final seat --for which the BJP takes on a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate backed by the SP and the Congress -- is being seen as a key political battle after the recent bypolls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur.
Apart from the 10 seats from UP, six seats each from Bihar and Maharashtra, five each from Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, four each from Gujarat and Karnataka, three each from Odisha, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, two from Jharkhand and one each from Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Kerala will also be decided.
A victory for the BJP’s ninth candidate in the fray, Anil Agarwal, would mean defeat for joint opposition candidate Bhimrao Ambedkar of the BSP.
BJP (311) and its allies Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (4) and Apna Dal (9) have a total of 324 votes, 296 of which will be needed to get eight candidates elected to the upper House, leaving only 28 surplus votes for the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, nine short of the required number for its ninth candidate .
Each candidate needs 37 votes to be elected and the SP’s Jaya Bachchan, whose party has 47 votes, is expected to win. The SP would be left with 10 votes to spare for Ambedkar after voting for Bachchan. The BSP has 19 votes of its own, and Ambedkar also has the support of seven Congress MLAs and one Rashtriya Lok Dal MLA, giving him exactly 37 votes.
In hectic lobbying preceding Friday’s elections, two additional state legislators – SP’s Nitin Agrawal and independent Amanmani Tripathi – attended a meeting over dinner hosted by chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday, suggesting that they would vote for the BJP’s ninth candidate. The BJP is also banking on Vijay Mishra, a legislator of the Nishad Party, who has assured it of support. This takes Agarwal’s tally to 31 votes.
The battle on Friday is about whether the opposition is able to retain its 37 MLAs, or the BJP is able to wean away six more to its side.
A win over Ambedkar would exact revenge for the BJP, which lost the crucial Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats to the SP this month in by-elections in which the latter had the backing of the BSP.
But BJP strategists admit that it is not going to be easy. The presence of independent legislator Raghuraj Pratap Singh, better known as Raja Bhaiya, and SP president Akhilesh Yadav’s estranged uncle and party member of the legislative assembly (MLA) Shivpal Yadav at the SP’s dinner for lawmakers indicates that the Opposition is in no mood to give up the fight. “After Shivpal’s attendance at the SP dinner and claim that both candidates supported by his party would win, it remains to be seen how the SP’s family feud plays out at the time of the actual voting,” a BJP insider said.
At the same time, observers believe that there could be a last minute swing. “As it is in power, BJP seems to have advantage at the moment as it has a few committed extra votes.” says Athar Siddiqui of the Centre of Objective Research and Development. BJP strategists are also looking out for ‘vulnerable’ MLAs in the SP, the BSP and the Congress.
Former SP general secretary Naresh Agrawal reached the BJP state headquarters on Thursday where he, along with his son Nitin Agrawal, formally joined the BJP in the presence of the party’s state president Mahendra Nath Pandey.