High-Stakes Battle In Rajya Sabha Today For Seats From 10 States

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MLAs will be voting to elect candidates for the Upper House of Parliament. (FILE)

New Delhi: Elections to 24 Rajya Sabha seats - most of them put on hold since March by the coronavirus pandemic -- will finally be held today. The build-up to the elections, in which seats from 10 states are at stake, was marked by a resurgence of resort politics, resignations, switching sides and allegations bribery. In two states, Gujarat and Rajasthan, the Congress whisked away its flock, accusing the BJP of attempts to buy its MLAs. The drama was more elaborate in Gujarat, where the BJP had fought a pitched battle to grab the seat of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel three years ago, and narrowly missed. A comfortable majority in the Rajya Sabha is crucial for the BJP to pilot bills through the upper house. The NDA needs around 30 more seats to have majority in the Upper House.

Here's your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:

Elections will be held on four seats each from Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, three each from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, two from Jharkhand and one each from the northeastern states of Meghalaya and Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. The voting will begin at 9 am. The toughest fight is over one seat in Gujarat, one in Rajasthan, and one in Madhya Pradesh.

The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements for the voting in view of the pandemic. Every MLA will be screened for body temperature and will have to stick to safety measures like face masks and social distancing. Legislators having a fever or showing other symptoms will be kept in a separate waiting room.

Currently, the NDA has 91 of the 245 Rajya Sabha seats, the UPA has 61. The other opposition and the non-aligned parties together have 68 seats. The key candidates in today's election include Shakti Singh Gohil and Bharat Singh Solanki from Gujarat, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh from Madhya Pradesh and KC Venugopal from Rajasthan.

The most intense politicking took place in Gujarat, where eight MLAs have resigned from the Congress since March. Going by the numbers, of the state's four seats, the BJP is assured of three. With its current strength, the Congress can only be assured of a single seat instead of two, which it could have commanded earlier. To win in the Gujarat, a candidate needs 34 votes.

The Congress has 65 MLAs in Gujarat assembly, most of whom have been spread across three resorts -- one in Rajasthan and two in Ahmedabad - over the past weeks.  The BJP has 103 members in the 182-member assembly, where a candidate needs 34 first-preference votes to win.

In  Madhya Pradesh -- where Jyotiraditya Scindia switched to the BJP in March with 22 MLAs, pushing the Congress out of power -- former Chief Minister Kamal Nath is trying to bring back a few of them. Of the three seats in the state, the BJP has two seats and the Congress one.

The 230-member Madhya Pradesh assembly now has an active strength of 206 after the resignations of Jyotiraditya Scindia loyalists and deaths of two members. The BJP has 107 members, Congress 92 in the state assembly and a candidate needs 51 votes to win a Rajya Sabha seat.

In Rajasthan, where three seats are at stake, the BJP can get one seat and the Congress two, on basis of their numbers. But the opposition party has fielded an extra candidate, pushing the Congress to whisk away their MLAs to various resorts in the state. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has said each of his MLAs have been offered Rs 25 to 30 crore.

Ahead of the Rajya Sabha election, the Congress has pushed a no-confidence motion against the BJP-led government in Manipur, whose nine MLAs have rebelled. The numbers are expected to affect the outcome of the state's single Upper House seat.

In February, the Election Commission had announced elections to fill 55 seats across 17 states. In March, 37 candidates across 10 states were elected unopposed. The elections to the remaining seats, due on March 26, were deferred as the process would have involved huge gatherings. On March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nationwide lockdown.



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