New Delhi: The election of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Sampatiya Uikey from Madhya Pradesh to the Rajya Sabha in July may have been a given—she was elected unopposed—but her win is nevertheless significant for the party because she is its 58th representative in the upper house. That makes BJP the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha; the Indian National Congress has 57 members of Parliament (MPs) in the upper house.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) continues to be in a minority in the upper house—it has 86 MPs in the upper house, 37 short of the halfway mark of 123—but the fortunes of the grouping could change in the next 16 months.
As indeed they have over the past year. For instance, the 86 includes 10 Janata Dal (United), or JDU, lawmakers in the Rajya Sabha who are now part of the NDA after the party became the BJP’s latest alliance partner.
Over the coming 16 months, the Rajya Sabha will witness elections for 45 seats from NDA-ruled states , of which the BJP alone could gain at least 15 seats, especially after the assembly election victories in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Maharashtra where the party has managed to form governments. These numbers will be bolstered by the retirement of four nominated Rajya Sabha MPs over the next year (this includes both former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and actor Rekha). Already, four nominated Rajya Sabha MPs have joined the BJP.
The NDA will still be short of the magic 123 mark in the Rajya Sabha, but it will be significantly closer to it. And, as a senior BJP leader pointed out on condition of anonymity, the upper house will now be run by one of its own—former Union minister Venkaiah Naidu who has just been elected vice-president.
“The dominance of (the) opposition in the Rajya Sabha has been a cause of concern for the BJP-led NDA but the growing strength of the alliance and a former Union minister as the new vice-president should give some comfort," added this person who is himself a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Meanwhile, the Congress, which has historically, either on its own or with allies, dominated the upper house, has suffered. It had 68 members in May 2014 but is down to 57 now. Its position in the Rajya Sabha is linked to its poor electoral performance over the past three years, and defections from some of its state units. Today, the party is hard-pressed to ensure the re-election of Ahmed Patel from Gujarat, something that should have been easy.
A Congress leader who asked not to be identified admitted that the BJP and the NDA are on the ascendant, even in the Rajya Sabha—“facts are facts and we cannot deny them"—and added that this could “increase problems" for the opposition.
Political analysts say that even if the BJP doesn’t have a clear majority in the Rajya Sabha, it will be able to use its growing heft to good effect, with the support of friendly parties. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which isn’t allied with either the NDA or the United Progressive Alliance, for instance, has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha.
N. Bhaskara Rao, a New Delhi-based political analyst, sees this scenario playing out by the middle of 2018, and adds that he expects to see some radical changes in the NDA’s approach to issues such as the uniform civil code, “centre-state relations, and the Kashmir issue".