Power balance shifts in Upper House

11 months ago 57
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The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) bagged 11 of the 24 Rajya Sabha seats that went to the polls on Thursday, bringing the ruling coalition within striking distance of the majority mark in the 245 member-strong Upper House of Parliament and in a much better position to manoeuvre position to clear crucial bills.

The ruling alliance now has 101 members in the Rajya Sabha. The Bharatiya Janata Party alone commands 86 seats – of which 11 were won on Thursday.

With the help of parties such as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu (9 seats), the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh (6), the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha (9), the Mizo National Front in Mizoram (1) and four nominated members, the NDA is in a position to breach the majority mark of 123 in the Upper House.

These parties have backed the NDA on a number of key pieces of legislation in the past – for instance, during the passage of the controversial Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill that bifurcated the erstwhile border state into two Union territories last year.


Four nominated members are also expected to back the ruling coalition. The opposition United Progressive Alliance has 65 members in the Upper House with the Congress having 44 seats.

Among the big names who won were senior BJP leader and former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, former Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren, and former prime minister HD Devegowda.

The numerical boost for the NDA that can now hope to breach the halfway mark with like-minded parties is significant as the Narendra Modi government has signalled its intent to roll out bold reforms to attract more investments in the post-Covid world order.

The government has already asked the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DIPPT) to prepare a document to woo investors in China and according to officials involved in the process, major reforms that require parliamentary sanctions would be part of the new policy.

The NDA’s numbers assume significance because the government faced a stiff challenge in the Upper House in its first term because it didn’t enjoy a majority. The government failed to push through some key bills, such as the land acquisition bill.

But things started to change after Narendra Modi returned to power with a thumping majority in summer last year. The NDA now enjoys a massive majority in the Lok Sabha with 335 of the 543 seats.

Soon after Modi was re-elected in May last year, cracks started appearing in Opposition unity. Bills to ban triple talaq, bifurcate Jammu & Kashmir into two Union territories and the resolution to effectively scrap Article 370 passed in the Upper House.

The added strength of the coalition can also come handy to tackle any possible Opposition criticism for the government’s handling of the conflict between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh, the handling of the economy and the Covid pandemic. In the past few weeks, the Opposition has criticised the government, especially over the plight of migrant workers and the issue is likely to come up during the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

The government has a long list of pending bills that it aims to push through quickly in Parliament. These include the two labour codes—industrial relations and social security— that are aimed to reform the labour market to woo investors. The government also is keen to clear the Personal Data Protection Bill, a contentious legislation that aims to deal with securing data of private people. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill and the surrogacy bill are in the pipeline.

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