Decoding Rajya Sabha elections
On Friday, 16 seats from four states — Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Haryana — are up for grabs in one of the biggest biennial elections in India
New Delhi: Rajya Sabha, or the council of states, is the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, with 245 members. Its members get an extra year in their term of 6 years even as Lok Sabha MPs have five-year terms.
This difference makes the Rajya Sabha a continuous body of the Parliament, against the Lok Sabha term that ends every five years, or earlier if the government loses majority.
The difference in voting process
Lok Sabha MPs are elected directly by the people through popular voting. Since Rajya Sabha is a council of the states, its MPs are not elected through direct public voting, but by elected MLAs through a system of proportional representation. On Friday, 16 seats from four states — Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Haryana — are up for grabs in one of the biggest biennial elections in the country.
Why is voting required?
Every Lok Sabha MP is elected through voting, but all Rajya Sabha MPs are not elected through voting.
In fact, most Rajya Sabha lawmakers get elected without contest. Usually, political parties field a number of candidates as per their strength, and as a result, the number of candidates will be equal to the number of vacancies. In this round of elections, several candidates have already won unopposed.
However, when a party has a significant number of extra votes and can woo away some opposition MLAs to get an extra seat, it puts up an additional candidate, triggering a contest as we are witnessing in these aforementioned four states. For the 16 vacant seats in these four states, there are 20 candidates in fray.
What is the voting process?
All elected MLAs cast their votes through a ballot paper, instead of an EVM machine as we see during other elections. The voting is done in the assembly house of the respective state. In the ballot paper, a MLA has to mark her or his choice of candidates by ranking them.
They also have to use a special pen provided by the Election Commission of India. If they use any other pen, or if their ballot papers remain incomplete, the vote would be regarded as invalid.
Can anyone see the ballot?
Yes. Unlike the popular voting process, the MLAs voting for Rajya Sabha candidates has to show their ballots to an authorised agent of their party. This process has been allowed to prevent cross-voting and corruption. But if the candidate shows her or his ballot to any other person apart from the authorised agent, the ballot would again be deemed as invalid. In 2016, two votes of Congress leaders were deemed invalid on this ground in Haryana.
What are second preference votes?
In a biennial election, if two or more candidates don’t get the requisite number of votes to get elected, the ballot papers will be seen again to find out how each MLA has marked their second preference. Remember, an MLA has to rank all the candidates in the fray as per her or his preference. The officials will now see which of the two remaining candidates have got more second preference votes.
Usually, the ruling party’s candidate gets more second preference votes as more MLAs in the assembly belong to that side. For instance, if BJP-backed Subhash Chandra and Congress’ Pramod Tiwari do not get the requisite number of votes, they will have to turn to second preference votes of Rajasthan MLAs. As the Congress is in power in Rajasthan, more MLAs are expected to mark Tiwari as their second preference.
When will the results come out?
The Election Commission of India has announced that the voting process will conclude at 5pm. As the number of ballots to be counted are limited, the result of the biennial election is expected by today evening.