Tough road ahead for opposition as BJP increases Rajya Sabha tally to 69

By Prarthana Mitra

In a dramatic turn of events from only days before, the BJP won 12 of the 25 remaining crucial seats in the Rajya Sabha bypolls held on Friday across seven states, securing a particularly significant victory against the main opposition Congress and shaking the growing camaraderie between former arch-rivals Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Congratulations to all those elected to the Rajya Sabha from various states and best wishes for their parliamentary career. I hope they effectively voice the aspirations of the states they will represent,” as he welcomed the elected MLAs to parliament.

The House currently has 49 BJP MLAs, 39 Congress legislators, one BSP member , nd an independent legislator.

A slew of victories

Amidst rumours of erroneous counting and unprecedented cross voting, all nine BJP candidates secured victories in Uttar Pradesh, despite positive projections about the SP-BSP combine’s fate in the Upper House following their win in the Lok Sabha bypolls.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, BJP leader GVL Narsimha Rao, Sameer Uranv from Jharkhand and Rajeev Chandrasekhar from Karnataka were among those who won. Others elected to the Rajya  Sabha include Ashok Bajpai, Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, Sakal Deep Rajbhar, Kanta Kardam, Anil Jain, Harnath Singh Yadav and Anil Kumar Agarwal, “who pulled off a surprise win with the help of second preference votes” according to Financial Express.

Sixteen of the 33 candidates elected unopposed on March 15 represent the ruling party.

How did the main opposition fare?

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was supported by Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC), won the expected seat from Bengal, while TMC leaders Nadimul Haque, Subhasish Chakraborty, Abir Biswas and Santunu Sen won the other seats in the state.

One of the two seats in Jharkhand was won by the Congress’ Dheeraj Sahu. The party’s L. Hanumanthaiah, Syed Naseer Hussain and GC Chandrasekhar clinched three of the four Upper House seats in Karnataka, conceding one to BJP.

An expected victory

According to the Economic Times, BJP’s strength in the 245-member House will increase from the existing 58 to 69 while that of the Congress will fall from 54 to 50 when all the new MPs replace the retiring members of the Rajya Sabha next week. This outcome was expected after the BJP’s many successes in recent assembly polls.

Following the BJP’s the SP in Uttar Pradesh, BSP chief Mayawati said, the “BJP’s plans will not succeed” as there’s no question of breaking the alliance with the SP until the grand finale—the 2019 general poll. She also called the SP-BSP’s combined victories in Gorakhpur and Phulpur constituencies more important than their loss at the Upper House.

Despite consolidating their position as the largest party in the Rajya Sabha, the 126-absolute majority mark continues to elude the BJP-led NDA alliance.

The widening lead of the BJP and its allies could mean a dip in confidence for the Congress and its allies, especially at a time when the opposition is trying to put together an alliance to counter the BJP. But given its current strength in both houses of parliament and many state assemblies, the BJP is sitting pretty at the moment.

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