The tenure of four members of the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka will end around the time that the tenure of the Karnataka Assembly — which elects Rajya Sabha members using the single transferable vote system — ends. This has thrown up a piquant situation.
The six-year tenure of Rajya Sabha members Rahman Khan (Congress), Rajeev Chandrashekhar (Ind), Baswaraj Patil (BJP) and Rangasayee Ramakrishna (BJP) is set to end on April 2, while the tenure of the 14th Assembly ends on May 29.
This has given rise to questions on how the Election Commission will conduct the two polls — especially if the code of conduct for Assembly polls kicks in before the Rajya Sabha polls.
“It is probably the first time in Karnataka that the end of the full term of members of the Rajya Sabha is coinciding with the end of the term of the Assembly. The ECI will have to take a decision on how to conduct the two polls since it is statutory for elections to be conducted before the end of the term,’’ said an official at the office of the chief electoral officer in Karnataka.
The Congress is keen on having elections to the Rajya Sabha seats before the announcement of Assembly polls and before the end of the term of the 14th Assembly, where it has 122 members and can guarantee election of two members to the Upper House, while also standing the chance of voting up a third candidate with the help of dissidents from other parties.
The Opposition BJP and JDS, which are on a sticky wicket — the JDS has witnessed as many as seven dissidents voting against the party — would prefer the new Rajya Sabha members being elected by a newly constituted Assembly.
“The term of the current Assembly is till May 29, and members of this Assembly are entitled to vote in the Rajya Sabha polls until the Assembly is dissolved after election of a new Assembly,’’ said the Karnataka Assembly Secretary S Murthy, also the returning officer for Rajya Sabha polls.
The thinking at present in political circles in Karnataka is that the Rajya Sabha polls will have to be conducted by the middle of March in order for the ECI to prevent the code of conduct for the Assembly polls from interfering with the conduct of the Rajya Sabha polls.
“During a recent meeting with ECI officials, we asked about the tenure of the 14th Assembly. We were told that it is May 29. There is one month and 27 days between the end of the tenure of the Rajya Sabha members and the end of the tenure of the Assembly. State polls can be conducted 10 days before the end of the Assembly and Rajya Sabha polls before that without any issues,’’ said Congress leader and former legislative council chairman B L Shankar.
According to the Assembly secretary, the ECI also has the option of delaying the Rajya Sabha polls to enable the conduct of Assembly polls.
However, officials in the office of the state chief electoral officer hinted that the provision of delaying elections is available to the ECI only in the event of casual vacancies that occur in the middle of the term of a Rajya Sabha seat and not when the full six-year term comes to an end.
“As far as general understanding goes, it is statutory for the Rajya Sabha polls to be held before the end of the six-year tenure to enable filling of vacancies that are not casual,’’ an official said.