The BJP, having won four of the 13 seats up for election in the latest round of election for the Rajya Sabha that concluded yesterday, now has 101 seats in the upper house. This is the first time a party has hit three digits in the house since 1988-1990. In the 1990 election, the Congress’s tally had dipped to double digits — 99 — for the first time since 1947.
The addition of these four seats has taken the BJP’s tally to 101 in the 245-member Rajya Sabha although the number will reduce to 100 when Punjab MP Shwait Malik’s term ends on 9 April. The BJP-led NDA now has 117 members in the Rajya Sabha, which has 236 members at present and nine vacancies.
The INC has hit a new low at 29 seats.
Of the 13 seats that went to the Rajya Sabha election, the AAP won five and the BJP four. Meanwhile, the INC, the Communist Party of India (CPI), the CPI(M), and the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) — the BJP’s ally in Assam — won one seat each.
BJP trounces opposition in Northeast
In Tripura, BJP nominee and party’s state president Manik Saha won by defeating CPM candidate, former minister and sitting MLA Bhanu Lal Saha. In Nagaland S Phangnon Konyak of BJP scripted history in state politics by becoming the first woman to be elected to the Rajya Sabha.
The counting of votes for the two Rajya Sabha seats from Assam had been delayed by over five hours after the EC initiated a hearing on complaints by Congress that five MLAs, including three from BJP, allegedly violated the election rules. Counting started at 10:25 PM, after the EC rejected all complaints.
The INC lodged complaints with the EC that its suspended MLA Sashikanta Das, BPF legislator Durgadas Boro and three BJP MLAs — Hitendra Nath Goswami, Ganesh Limbu and Sanjay Kishan — have violated the rules of the election while casting their votes.
While BJP won the Tripura seat on the sheer strength of its numbers and the Nagaland seat uncontested, cross-voting and invalid opposition votes in Assam helped the saffron party and its ally UPPL win both the seats to which elections were held.
“Our strategy was to bank on the conscience of legislators. We have got seven votes from Congress MLAs,” Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said. In the 126-member assembly, BJP and its allies were short of four votes needed to win both Rajya Sabha seats, while the opposition appeared to be comfortably placed to win the one seat it was contesting.
BJP’s Pabitra Margherita and UPPL’s Rwngra Narzary won the two seats from Assam, while Congress candidate and sitting Rajya Sabha MP Ripun Bora, who was the common candidate of a united opposition, suffered defeat. After Thursday’s verdict by legislators of the three states, the NDA now holds 13 of the 14 seats in the Upper House from the region. One seat from Assam is held by an Independent.
BJP also won the Nagaland seat uncontested, which was held by it ally NPF. CPM lost its seat in Tripura to BJP.
BJP spokesperson Guru Prakash Paswan reacted to the election by saying, “The BJP touching the three-figure mark in the Rajya Sabha for the first time is a special moment. It has been possible only due to the relentless sacrifice, uncompromising ideals, and sustained hard work of our past and present leadership and karyakartas (workers).”
“It is the arrival of principled politics in the country. The people of India have decisively rejected the Congress’s politics of dynasty and entitlement,” he said.
Some BJP leaders, however, advised caution, saying that the celebrations over the three-digit figure may be a little premature, given that there will be more vacancies shortly.
There are 75 Rajya Sabha seats up to be filled with elected representatives this year. Polls for 13 of these took place on 31 March and the remaining 62 elections will be held later, in states including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Karnataka, Odisha, and Madhya Pradesh.
“We have 30 seats out of these 62, and we are definitely going to gain in some states, but things aren’t so clear for those states where we lost the assembly elections. So it remains to be seen whether this tally of 100 will remain intact or not,” said a senior BJP leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
‘No party has been there since 1988’
The BJP’s first avatar the Bharatiya Jana Sangh never hit a three-digit figure either. Before the Modi era began in 2014, after which the party rose to power in one state after another, the BJP’s best tally was 51 (in 2010-12).
BJP reacts, INC sulks
In a tweet, the national convenor of the BJP’s IT cell, Amit Malviya, said, “BJP and its allies win both the Rajya Sabha seats from Assam. The other two seats from North East, namely Tripura and Nagaland, also won by the BJP. This makes it 4/4. Congress draws a neat blank.”
“The BJP now has 100 members in the Rajya Sabha. No party has been there after 1988,” he said, referring to the 1988-90 period when the Congress had 108 MPs.