NEW DELHI : Elections to 55 Rajya Sabha seats will be held on 26 March, the Election Commission (EC) said on Tuesday, with around one-fifth of the seats in the 245-member Upper House falling vacant in April, as members from across 17 states are set to retire.
Counting of votes will begin an hour after the polling ends, the poll panel said.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will aim to tilt the balance in its favour in the Upper House, where it is currently in minority with 97 seats, including 82 of BJP MPs. Over the next one year, 72 seats will fall vacant and the election to these seats may drastically change the composition of the Rajya Sabha.
Upper House members of four states, including Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, will retire on 2 April, while those from 12 states, including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Haryana, will complete their term on 9 April. The Congress MP from Meghalaya, Wansuk Syiem, will retire on 12 April.
The electoral dominance of the NDA in the first five years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is now showing its impact in the Rajya Sabha, where it is set to gain at least 12 seats.
Over the next one year, the BJP will gain the maximum seats from Uttar Pradesh, where it returned to power in 2017 after 15 years. Ten Rajya Sabha seats will go to polls from the state.
The BJP will also gain from the North-East, where it is in power in most states.
“The BJP has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, but since NDA has come to power in 2014, the Rajya Sabha has always remained a cause for concern for the Union government. The BJP managed to win the vice president’s election and that for the post of deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha, but the alliance was always unsure of the number’s game. A lot of crucial bills have suffered because of lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha,” said a senior BJP Rajya Sabha MP requesting anonymity.
The Shiv Sena-led alliance in Maharashtra is likely to make gains with seven seats going to polls.
Overall, more than 15 Congress members of Rajya Sabha are set to retire over the next one year, but the party expects to make up the numbers from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.
Representation from Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu could also help improve the Opposition strength in the House.
“The Rajya Sabha tally depends entirely on state elections and, in the first four years of BJP coming to power, we lost quiet a few states. However, we have arrested this decline and it will show in the improved tally from big states such as Maharashtra and Rajasthan. We are hopefully that as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh go to polls, the tables will turn in the Upper House,” a senior Congress Rajya Sabha MP said, also requesting anonymity.
Many parties such as the Shiv Sena, YSR Congress Party, Telangana Rashrtiya Samiti, and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), which are not part of the BJP-led alliance have supported the ruling party on crucial legislations. However, an increase in the NDA’s strength in the Upper House will help the Modi government immensely.