Voting has commenced for the Indian Rajya Sabha elections 2018 in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana.
The Rajya Sabha or Council of States is the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. The Constitution limits the Rajya Sabha membership to a maximum of 250 members, and current laws have provision for 245 members. A majority of the members of the House are indirectly elected by state and territorial legislatures using single transferable votes. The President is authorized to appoint 12 members for their contributions to art, literature, science, and social services. Members are appointed for sporadically over six-year terms, with a third of the members retiring every two years.
The Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution and meets in continuous sessions. However, a session at the Rajya Sabha can be discontinued by the President. With respect to law-making, the Rajya Sabha enjoys equal powers with the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the parliament. A joint sitting of the houses is sometimes held, especially in the case of conflicting legislation. An ordinary bill can be introduced in the Rajya Sabha but cannot become a law unless passed by it. In case of a deadlock between the two Houses of Parliament over an ordinary bill and if it remains unresolved for six months, the President can convene a joint sitting of the two Houses to resolve the deadlock. The Lok Sabha has double the members as the Rajya Sabha.
At present, the Vice-President of India Venkaiah Naidu is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and presides over its sessions. A Deputy Chairman is elected to oversee day-to-day matters of the house in the absence of the Chairman. The Rajya Sabha inaugurated its first session in May 1952. The 2018 Rajya Sabha elections will be held to elect its retiring members. The elections commenced on March 23, 2018 to elect 58 members from 16 States.
Voting was held for the remaining 26 seats out of 59, across seven states, with all eyes on Uttar Pradesh where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seeks one extra seat in addition to the eight it could attain comfortably. Sources reported that one Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Anil Singh, cross-voted for the BJP taking it closer to its target. Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populated state, sends 31 Members of Parliament (MP) to the Rajya Sabha, and the BJP, which won a massive victory in the 2017 Assembly elections, is yet to get a majority.
Overall, there are 11 candidates, including current Finance Minister and Minister of Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley, in the running for the 10 Rajya Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh. The BJP has already filed 18 candidates for the polls.
In Uttar Pradesh, both the ruling BJP and the Opposition have had disagreements surrounding BJP's decision to bring in an extra candidate, transforming the routine election into a contest. The BJP is seeking independent candidates and those who could be persuaded to cross-vote.
In Maharashtra, six candidates have been elected unopposed after the BJP pulled out its fourth candidate. Three seats have gone to the BJP and one each to Shiv Sena, Congress, and National Congress Party. As of now, a total of 33 candidates have been elected unopposed.
The Samajwadi Party is eager to ensure a clean vote transfer, easing its chance to commence an alliance with the BSP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections against the BJP. In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee stated that she will be supporting the Congress candidate.
The Rajya Sabha will have 58 vacant seats in April. These seats will be filled by 33 candidates from 10 states that will be unanimously elected. In the meantime, voting for the remaining 25 seats is being held in six states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana.
Our assessment is that considering BJP’s recent defeat in the state bypolls for the Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats, there is a lot of speculation whether the BJP can acquire a ninth seat in the Rajya Sabha. Will the BJP’s strategies surrounding demonetization and the introduction of goods and services tax affect its chances of winning the seat? Counting of votes began on Friday from 5 p.m. onwards. The results of the 2018 Rajya Sabha polls are expected to be announced soon.