Assam setback for Congress; BJP, AAP make Rajya Sabha gains
New Delhi/Guwahati: High drama marked the elections to two Rajya Sabha seats in Assam on Thursday even as the polls to 11 other upper house seats concluded on expected lines, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) going past the 100-mark for the first time and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) making major gains in Punjab.
In Assam, the ruling BJP and its allies won both Rajya Sabha seats, dealing a major blow to attempts by the Congress-led opposition to retain one seat. Despite not having the required numbers, BJP’s Pabitra Margherita and coalition partner United Peoples Party Liberal (UPPL) candidate Rwngwra Narzary won the biennial elections while Congress’s Ripun Bora failed to secure the required votes.
BJP’s Margherita won 46 votes, UPPL’s Narzary won 44 and Congress’s Bora won 35 seats. One vote was disqualified.
“We won both the Rajya Sabha seats from Assam (one by the BJP and other by UPPL, our partner) by a huge margin of 11 and 9 votes respectively,” chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted.
Within hours of voting, Congress suspended its MLA from Karimganj South, Siddique Ahmed, from primary membership of the party for writing ‘one’ instead of ‘1’ as directed in his ballot paper.
“We have suspended Ahmed from primary membership and sought his disqualification from assembly. And instead of supporting our candidate, AIUDF betrayed us and our candidate,” said state Congress chief Bhupen Kumar Borah.
The party also wrote to assembly Speaker Biswajit Daimary to disqualify the MLA. However, Ahmed dismissed the allegations and said he will approach party high-command and court for reprieve.
The BJP alone won four additional seats in the latest round of biennial elections on Thursday, taking its tally to 101 in the Rajya Sabha. The AAP swept all five vacancies in Punjab, weeks after the Arvind Kejriwal’s party won the state assembly polls.
The Congress, which lost a string of assembly elections in the last few years, has shrunk further by five seats in this round of polls. The Congress will be reduced to just 29 members in the House by the end of April.
The rejig in Rajya Sabha will see an emboldened BJP ahead of the elections for the President and the Vice President scheduled in July and August, respectively. In the Opposition space, the Congress’s command further weakens and a new sub-group of regional parties, including the Trinamool Congress (13 MPs), AAP (eight), Samajwadi Party (five) is set to emerge in the Upper House.
“The BJP crossing the 100-seat mark in the Rajya Sabha basically throws the Opposition out of the race in the Vice President election,” a leader from an Opposition party said, requesting anonymity. “Also, passage of laws becomes easier for the ruling side while the Opposition benches will see more power centres at the cost of the Congress.”
Of the 13 Rajya Sabha seats that went to poll on Thursday, the AAP won five, BJP four, while Congress, CPI, CPI(M) and UPPL (BJP’s ally in Assam) won one seat each.
The BJP also got its first Rajya Sabha MP from Nagaland after party’s women wing chief S Phangnon Konyak was elected unopposed in the biennial race. Konyak also became the first woman member in the House from Nagaland.
In Kerala, two Left candidates and a Congress nominee won unopposed. AA Rahim of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI (M), P Santhosh Kumar of the CPI and Jebi Mather of the Congress will replace former defence minister AK Antony (Congress), K Somaprasad of the CPI(M) and MV Shreyams Kumar of the Loktantrik Janta Dal.
Dr Manik Saha, BJP’s Tripura unit president, will be the party’s first member from the state in Rajya Sabha. BJP’s Sikandar Kumar also won unopposed from Himachal Pradesh.
Some of the MPs, including all five new AAP members, will enter Rajya Sabha only in the monsoon session.
(with inputs from Thiruvananthapuram and Agartala)