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Why the BJP’s Rajya Sabha majority is safe till July 2022

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Since Narendra Modi’s swearing-in as prime minister of India for his second consecutive term in May 2019, the BJP government at the Centre has passed several contentious legislations-such as the abrogation of Article 370 and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019-in Parliament. Its ability to do so has primarily been based on its brute majority in the Lok Sabha and convenient arithmetic in Rajya Sabha. Though opposition parties strongly protested these legislations, both inside and outside Parliament, they did not have the numbers to counter the BJP’s strength in both houses.

The BJP has 305 of its own legislators in the 543-member Lok Sabha, enough to pass any bill without even seeking the support of its allies. In the upper house, though, it has only 82 members, well short of the 120 required for a simple majority. The Rajya Sabha currently has 239 members. The BJP’s current allies-the AIADMK, the JD(U), the SAD, the AGP, the BPF, the LJP, the RPI(A) and SDF-together have 25 members, taking the NDA tally to 107. Then there are parties such as the BJD, the Shiv Sena, the YSRCP, the TRS and the NPF, which have, on multiple occasions, strategically voted in support of the BJP in the upper house. These parties have 19 members; enough take the NDA beyond the simple majority mark in the upper house.

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However, the BJP’s losses in seven state elections since December 2018 have led to speculation that the second-term Modi government passed its most controversial bills soon after taking power because it feared losing strength in the Rajya Sabha. As Rajya Sabha members are elected by state Assembly members, the loss of a state has a direct impact on a party’s ability to send members to the upper house. As a result, the loss of seven states that together send 43 members to the Rajya Sabha was a cause of worry to the BJP leadership.

A general view of discussions in Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament in New Delhi on Tuesday. (ANI Photo/ RSTV TV Grab)

What comes to BJP’s rescue, however, is the fact that all the Rajya Sabha seats from a state don’t fall vacant at the same time. That’s why the party will not only maintain its strength in the Rajya Sabha, but will gain 15 new members by the end of this year, taking its strength to 97 seats (see table). In that situation, the BJP and its allies-with one of its allies, the NPP, gaining one seat-will not need support of any other party to pass any bill in the upper house. Two of the parties that have voted with the BJP in the past-the YSRCP and the MNF-are also set to win 4 seats.

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However, the good run will not last long. By July 2022, the BJP is likely to lose 8 Rajya Sabha seats from Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, all Congress-ruled states. Nonetheless, its headcount in the upper house will remain higher than its current strength of 82. After July 2022, the results of elections in Assam, West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Goa and Gujarat will determine the BJP’s tally in the Rajya Sabha.

So, for at least the next two years, the BJP doesn’t need to worry much about its Rajya Sabha arithmetic.

How BJP is set to gain numbers in Rajya Sabha

DateStateNumber of seats falling vacantCurrently occupied byLikely to go toGain for NDA
April 2020Maharashtra7BJP 1, NCP 2, Shiv Sena 1, Congress 1, RPA 1, Independent 1BJP is likely to retain the seatNo change
West Bengal5TMC 4, Independent 1TMC will retainNo change
Odisha4BJD 3, Congress 1BJP may win 11
6AIDMK 4, DMK 1, Left 1Will remain status quoNo change
Assam3Congress 2, BPF 1BJP will win 2, BPF will retain the seat2
Rajasthan3BJP 3May lose 2-2
Gujarat4BJP 3, Congress 1May remain the sameNo change
Jharkhand2RJD 1, Independent 1JMM and Congress will share seatsNo change
Bihar5JDU 3, BJP 2Will remain the sameNo change
Madhya Pradesh3BJP 2, Congress 1May lose 1-1
Chhattisgarh2BJP 1, Congress 1May lose 1-1
Haryana2Congress 1, INLD 1Will gain one seat1
Andhra Pradesh4TDP 1, Congress 2, TRS 1YSRCP will gain at least 3No change
Telangana2Congress 1, TDP 1Both will go to TRSNo change
Manipur1BJP 1Will retainNo change
Meghalaya1CongressNPP will win1
Himachal Pradesh1CongressWill gain1
Karnataka4Congress 2, BJP 1, JD-S 1Likely gain 22
Arunachal Pradesh1CongressBJP will gain1
July 2020Mizoram1CongressMNFNo change
November 2020Uttar Pradesh10SP 6, BJP 1, BSP 2, Congress 1BJP can win at least 99
Uttarakhand1CongressBJP can win at least 91

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