The ruling BJP became the single largest party in Rajya Sabha Friday when it won 12 seats in elections to the Upper House, including an extra seat in Uttar Pradesh where it foiled the bid by the BSP-SP-Congress combine amid high drama and cross-voting allegations. This brought to an end biennial elections to 58 seats in Rajya Sabha. With counting for one seat in Jharkhand still on late Friday night, the BJP appeared to have gained 10 more seats in the Upper House because it was all set to bag 27 seats — as against 17 of its members retiring from the seats that went to polls.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao, SP’s Jaya Bachchan (all from UP), Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was backed by the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, and BJP’s Rajeev Chandrasekhar (from Karnataka) were among the winners.
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Backed by the ruling CPM-led LDF, M P Veerendra Kumar, president of the Kerala unit of Janata Dal (U) Sharad Yadav faction, was elected from the state, defeating his Congress rival.
While the jump in numbers will boost BJP morale in Rajya Sabha where the Opposition Congress has had the upper hand, the sweetener Friday for the BJP was the additional seat from UP where its candidate Anil Agarwal defeated BSP’s Bhimrao Ambedkar.
Smarting from the defeats to the SP-BSP alliance in Lok Sabha bypolls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur — these seats were vacated by Yogi Adityanath and Keshav Prasad Maurya after they became UP Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister — the BJP struck back by defeating the BSP Rajya Sabha choice who had the backing of SP and Congress legislators.
Given its numbers in the UP assembly, the BJP had the numerical strength to comfortably win eight of the ten seats that went to polls in the state. The SP could win one seat easily. Both parties had some spare votes but not enough for their candidate to get elected from the tenth seat. The SP and Congress decided to pool their additional votes to help the BSP nominee. But the BJP upset their calculations by fielding Agarwal.
Cross-voting and some clever management saw the BJP outsmart the BSP candidate on the basis of second preference votes. After the BJP won the tenth seat, Yogi Adityanath, tried to drive a wedge among Opposition parties.
Taking a swipe at the SP, he suggested that it did not transfer its additional votes to the BSP candidate and that this should be a lesson to the BSP. “Is election mein Samajwadi Party ka avsarwadi chehra pradesh ko dikha. Samajwadi Party le sakti hai, de nahi sakti. Samajhdar thokar se samajhte hain,” he said.
But the numbers indicated that the SP’s additional votes were transferred to the BSP candidate. It appeared that independent Raja Bhaiyya and an MLA, who had pledged support to SP, did not vote for the party choice. BSP’s numbers also came under stress after its MLA Anil Singh defied the whip and voted for the BJP.