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View: Close fight for 3 4 seats to make June 10 Rajya Sabha elections a cliffhanger

View: Close fight for 3-4 seats to make June 10 Rajya Sabha elections a cliffhanger

View: Close fight for 3-4 seats to make June 10 Rajya Sabha elections a cliffhanger
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By KV Prasad  Jun 9, 2022 12:26:36 PM IST (Published)

Rajya Sabha elections are back in the news. Though the majority of 41 MPs were elected unopposed it is the contest for 16 from four states where an intense political battle is on to garner the ballots. Ironically, there is talk once again of possible cross-voting and 'horse-trading', which the 2003 amendment to law sought to address by introducing open ballot. The legislator has to show the ballot to a designated party representative in the poll area before dropping it in the box.

Friday elections for Rajya Sabha across four states of Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, states where legislators are scheduled to vote on Friday, is expected to be a cliffhanger, or so claim those who are making a contest of it.

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Of the 57 vacancies, 41 candidates have been declared elected unopposed in the biennial elections. Now, there are 16 seats up for grabs, and the number of candidates contesting dramatically rose in the four states, with political parties preferring to experiment with the surplus vote and by wooing smaller parties and independents in the assembly.
Exploring cracks that surface on account of the fractious nature of politics plus the ability to convert an outside chance into a definite victory is part of the calculus, which has become more pronounced in recent times.
These elections become important for several reasons. One, the governing coalition at the Centre is constantly on the move to consolidate its presence in the Rajya Sabha. The second, and equally important reason, is that in the next two months, the country will witness elections for the top constitutional posts of the President and the Vice President of India, with MPs and legislators voting in the first and Parliamentarians in the second.
In order to keep the legislators together and prevent ‘poaching’ political parties have resorted to different methods. The most oft-deployed tactic is to hold them at a resort and deny access to opponents from reaching out to any with an offer, a legislator may find it hard to refuse.
The electoral math is simple, it is vacancies divided by the number of legislators and the party with better numbers can get its candidates elected in that order. It opens up when a party with available strength is left with more votes but not enough to get a second or subsequent candidate elected, and decides to utilise these surplus votes. Besides garnering additional votes from across the aisle, the voters exercise ‘second preference’, which in case of tight situations, has the potential to alter the end result.
Let us take Haryana, for instance. As against two vacancies in the biennial polls, there are three candidates with media baron Kartikeya Sharma throwing his hat in the electoral ring. Son of an influential politician and former Union Minister Venod Sharma, Kartikeya is supported by the Jananayak Janata Party of Dushyant Chautala, an ally in the BJP-coalition government in the state. BJP fielded Krishan Pawar, and with 40 legislators, he can sail past with ease the 31-vote requirement. In state political circles, the senior Sharma was once known for his proximity to former Congress Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Former Union Minister Ajay Maken, of the Congress, is now on a razor’s edge since the party has exactly 31 members including a few disgruntled legislators. The House has seven independents, besides one each of the Indian National Lok Dal and the Haryana Lokhit Party of Gopal Kanda. The silver lining for Maken is that he is Hooda’s choice, with the latter foiling party from fielding Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, a fellow Jat.
Surjewala was accommodated in Rajasthan and is in the fray along with former Union Minister Mukul Wasnik and UP leader Pramod Tiwari of the Congress, where the entry of another media baron Subhash Chandra, backed by the BJP, added a twist to the saga. The BJP official candidate is Ghanshyam Tiwari.
Each candidate needs 41 votes, and the Congress, with 108 legislators, can bag two seats easily while the BJP, with 71, can get one elected straightaway. The majority of 13 independents are with the Congress, while Rashtriya Loktantrik Party has three legislators, the Bharatiya Tribal Party and CPI (M) have two each and Rashtriya Lok Dal one.
Besides moving the legislators to Udaipur, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot sought the intervention of the Anti-Corruption Bureau to prevent "horse-trading" while negotiating with six dissident legislators to come to the aid of the party. Interestingly, these legislators were elected on the Bahujan Samaj Party ticket and later merged with Congress, but the issue is under legal challenge. Meanwhile, in a mini tug-of-war on the side, the BSP directed these legislators to back Chandra, cautioning any deviation would be considered a violation.
In a piquant development, the Maharasthra Vikas Aghadi coalition government led by Shiv Sena decided to move its legislators to a hotel with allies Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress, drawing plans to keep their legislators together. The contest for six seats would essentially pitch Sena’s Sanjay Pawar against BJP’s Dhananjay Mahadik.
Neighbouring Karnataka is even more interesting, as against four vacancies, six candidates are in the fray. The BJP, Congress, and Janata Dal (Secular) fielded a candidate making a contest for the fourth seat a tight race. The BJP is in the government, and the party is hopeful of getting votes from the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) camp for its candidate Lahar Singh Siroya. The Congress directed its legislators to cast first preference votes for former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh and remaining surplus to Mansoor Ali Khan, its second candidate.
For a win, a candidate needs 45 votes. The BJP, after getting in Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Jaggesh, will have 32 surplus votes while Congress will have 24 spare votes. The JD (S) with 32 cannot get its candidate unless supported by the Congress, which did not back down from the contest. The end result could be decided by second preference votes.
With due apologies to the famous quiz show, by Friday evening, the country should have an answer ending the lingering suspense in this "Kaun Banega Rajya Sabha MP" episode?
— KV Prasad is a senior journalist and has earlier worked with The Hindu and The Tribune. Views expressed are personal.
Read his other columns here
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