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Explained: How are Rajya Sabha MPs elected? Why are the polls important?

On June 10, the Assemblies of 4 states will elect 16 MPs to Rajya Sabha. What is the process for conducting such an election, how are the votes counted, and why do Rajya Sabha numbers matter to all parties?

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
June 8, 2022 12:20:37 am
For both the ruling party and the Opposition, every Rajya Sabha seat counts as any Bill, barring those designated as Money Bills by the Lok Sabha Speaker, needs the assent of the second chamber to become law. (PTI/Kamal Kishore)

Ahead of Rajya Sabha elections in four states on June 10, various parties have accommodated legislators from at least three states in resorts, away from potential poaching by rival parties. A practice frequently seen before Rajya Sabha elections, this underlines the importance parties give to seats in the Upper House.

Why are Rajya Sabha elections important?

For both the ruling party and the Opposition, every Rajya Sabha seat counts as any Bill, barring those designated as Money Bills by the Lok Sabha Speaker, needs the assent of the second chamber to become law.

Rajya Sabha, or the Council of States, has 245 seats. Leave aside reaching the halfway mark of 123, no ruling party has ever touched the 100 mark in the last three-and-a-half decades. The BJP-led NDA fleetingly touched 100 in April but its strength is down to 95 now after the retirement of five of the nominated members who had taken BJP membership.

The NDA government has so far managed to get crucial Bills — farm laws, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, or the Citizenship Amendment Act — passed with the help of allies and support of other parties such as AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, and YSR Congress.

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Rajya Sabha has a limited role in the case of Money Bills. It cannot amend a Money Bill, but can recommend amendments within a stipulated time, and Lok Sabha may either accept or reject all or any of these.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman files her papers for the Rajya Sabha elections in Bengaluru. (PTI, file)

How often are Rajya Sabha elections held?

Rajya Sabha is a permanent House and cannot be dissolved. To ensure continuity, one-third of its members retire after every second year, under Article 83(1) of the Constitution, and “biennial elections” are held to fill these vacancies. The term of a member is six years.

Out of the 245 members, 12 are nominated by the President and 233 are representatives of the States and Union territories of Delhi and Puducherry. Vacancies arising due to resignation, death or disqualification are filled up through bypolls, and those elected serve out the remainder of their predecessors’ term.


Under Article 80(3), the 12 nominated members should have special knowledge or practical experience in matters like literature, science, art etc. A nominated member may join a party within six months of taking a seat.

Rajya Sabha polls: Who votes, and how?

Rajya Sabha MPs are elected by MLAs through an indirect election. Article 80(4) provides that members shall be elected by the elected members of state Assemblies through a system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote.

The Fourth Schedule to the Constitution provides for allocation of Rajya Sabha seats to the states and Union Territories, on the basis of the population of each state. For instance, there are 31 Rajya Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh and 1 in Goa. Elections are held there are more candidates than vacancies; otherwise, candidates are elected unopposed.

How are the votes counted?


The number of votes a candidate requires depends on the number of vacancies and the strength of the House. If there is only one vacancy, the required quota under the Election Commission’s Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, is calculated by taking the number of votes polled, divided it by 2, and adding 1. For example, if 100 votes are polled in an Assembly, the Rajya Sabha candidate would need:

100/2 + 1 = 51 votes

If there is more than one vacancy, the equation is based on an assigned value of 100 for every first-preference vote. The values of the votes credited to all candidates are totalled. The total is divided by 1 more than the number of vacancies, and 1 is added to this quotient.

For example, if 100 members of an Assembly vote for 3 Rajya Sabha vacancies, the required quota by any candidate would be

(100 × 100)/(3 + 1) + 1 = 2501

If for any seat, candidates fail to get the specified number, the second-preference votes will be taken into account, but with a lower value.

How many seats are being contested in the current elections?

Biennial elections are being held for 57 seats across 15 states. But elections were necessitated only in 16 seats from four states – Haryana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Karnataka. The remaining 41 candidates were declared elected unopposed last week. These include Congress leader P Chidambaram, former Congress leader Kapil Sibal, RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary, and RJD’s Misa Bharti.


Elections in Haryana (two vacancies) have become necessary with the entry of a third candidate, media baron Kartikeya Sharma, and in Rajasthan (four vacancies) with the entry of a fifth candidate, Subhash Chandra, the founder of Zee and the head of Essel Group, as an independent with the support of the BJP.

In Karnataka, the ruling BJP, the Congress and the JD(S) have put up candidates for the fourth seat, forcing an election. In Maharashtra too, there are seven candidates for six seats.


To what extent can the results affect the strengths of the NDA and Opposition?

Out of the 57 retiring members, 24 are from the BJP. The party has already won 14 seats, and has the strength to win six of the 16 seats to decided by voting. Not counting its extra candidates in Karnataka and Maharashtra, the BJP’s strength after the polls will be 91. Adding to that will be the seven nominated seats that fell vacant, which the BJP could count on.


The Congress has 29 members. Seven of its members are retiring and four of its candidates have been elected unopposed. The party is sure to win four more while there is uncertainty over the fate of two others. So its strength will go up to 30-32.

The biggest gainer will be the AAP, whose strength has gone up from 3 to 10 because of the clean sweep of Punjab. The strength of YSRCP will also go up from 6 to 9.

Congress leader P Chidambaram files papers for the Rajya Sabha elections, in Chennai. (PTI, file)

Beyond passing Bills, why do Rajya Sabha numbers matter?

Rajya Sabha enjoys some special powers. If it passes a resolution by a majority of not less than two-thirds of members present and voting, saying that it is “necessary or expedient in the national interest” that Parliament should make a law on a matter enumerated in the State List, Parliament becomes empowered to make a law on the subject. Such a resolution remains in force for a maximum of one year but this period can be extended by one year at a time by passing a similar resolution.

A similar route can be adopted for recommending creation of one or more All India Services common to the Union and the states. Parliament becomes empowered to create such services.

Also, Rajya Sabha has a role to play if the President, as empowered by the Constitution, issues proclamations in the event of national emergency, in the event of failure of constitutional machinery in a State, or in the case of financial emergency”.  Every such proclamation has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament within a stipulated period.

Under certain circumstances, however, Rajya Sabha enjoys special powers. If a proclamation is issued at a time when Lok Sabha has been dissolved or the dissolution of Lok Sabha takes place within the period allowed for its approval, then the proclamation remains effective, if the resolution approving it is passed by Rajya Sabha within the period specified under Articles 352, 356 and 360 of the Constitution.

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First published on: 08-06-2022 at 12:20:37 am
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