The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has further widened its power gap with the opposition in the upper house of the parliament with 86 seats while archrival Indian National Congress (INC) got a mere 41 as the latest round of biennial polls to the Rajya Sabha ended. The NDA now has nearly 100 members in the 245-member house.
The Narendra Modi government is unlikely to face any serious numerical challenge in legislation in the upper house hereinafter if the support of friendly parties like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) with nine seats, each, YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) with six MPs and several allied nominated members and smaller parties can be counted in.
The BJP relied on its strength in the assemblies added to the defections from other parties, especially the INC, to increase its strength in the upper house, where its numerical disadvantage often hindered the Modi government’s legislative agenda in its first term.
The Election Commission had announced biennial polls to 61 seats, including 55 in March, but had to delay the process due to the novel coronavirus epidemic in the country (pandemic worldwide).
The BJP won eight, with 42 members elected unopposed earlier, the INC and the YSRCP four each and others three out of the 19 seats that went to polls on 19 June.
The BJP won two seats more than it could have on the strength of its numbers because of defection from several INC legislators in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
In total, the BJP won 17, Congress nine, BJP ally JDU three, BJD and the TMC four each, AIADMK and DMK three each, NCP, RJD and the TRS two each, and others rest, official sources said.
The shrinking of the opposition, whose key constituents are the INC, TMC and communist parties, has been witnessed since last year after Prime Minister Modi led the BJP to its biggest-ever victory of 303 Lok Sabha seats in the general election. That prompted many defections from the opposition, including Rajya Sabha members of the INC, Telugudesam Party (TDP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP), to the BJP. As a bonus for the ruling alliance at the Centre, many non-NDA regional parties chose to back the government in Parliament on crucial issues.
The INC accused the BJP of horse-trading, alleging that it had engineered defections from its ranks for political gains even as the government garnered big support in the parliament to its resolution to nullify Article 370 and key bills like the bifurcation of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir into union territories and criminal prosecution for triple talaq by Muslim men.
The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in both the houses to become a law enabling persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to seek Indian citizenship.
Out of the 61 new members, 43 are first-timers, which include BJP’s Jyotiraditya Scindia and Mallikarjun Kharge of the INC. Both have been members of the Lok Sabha, who lost in the general election of 2019.
Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda and former Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambi Durai have been elected to the Rajya Sabha too.
The opposition’s numerical superiority in the upper house hampered the Modi government’s legislative agenda in its first term when the INC had more numbers than the BJP for the first few years. The BJP’s impressive gains in the assembly elections and the loss of the INC in several states resulted in a slow but steady rise in the government’s numbers in the House.
Though the below-par show of the BJP in state selections since 2018 has meant otherwise that its goal of gaining a majority on its own in the Rajya Sabha remains a distant dream.