Hard pressed for numbers in the Rajya Sabha, the ruling BJP and its allies are set to register big gains this year, though they would still remain far below the half-way mark in the 250-member Upper House.
To start with, the Government would be able to fill seven vacancies in the category of Nominated members to the House, which would take its present tally from 48 to 55. The category has a total of 12 slots. Two nominated members, Ashok Ganguly and H K Dua, retired last November. Five others – Mani Shankar Aiyar, Javed Akhtar, B Jayashree, Mrinal Miri and Bhalchandra Mungekar – are completing their tenures this month. Nominated members have the option of accepting or refusing the whip of a particular party. Aiyar, for instance, chose the Congress. Logic dictates that members vote along the line set by the party which would have nominated them.
A total of 12 people are scheduled to retire in April. Five of them are from Punjab – two each belonging to the Congress and the Akali Dal and one to the BJP. The election recently held to fill these seats afresh has resulted in a continuation of the status quo.
The election to fill three vacancies from Kerala has resulted in the return of senior Congress leader AK Antony and another UDF nominee, MP Veerendra Kumar of the JD(U). The CPI-M has been able to get only one person, K Somaprasad, in to the Upper House, losing a second seat to the rival alliance.
The Congress is likely to retain its two seats from Assam. The party has already taken one seat from the BJP in Himachal Pradesh, with its deputy leader in the House, Anand Sharma, replacing Bimla Kashyap Sood. In Tripura, the CPI(M) will hold on to its seat. This round will increase the power of both the Congress and the JD(U) in the House by one seat each, and the BJP’s score, one down, resulting to 54.