BJP gains muscle in India’s Rajya Sabha

RS_combo_2891205fThe ruling Bharatiya Janata Party maximised its gains in Saturday’s Rajya Sabha polls, winning 11 seats on its symbol, while ensuring that one more candidate, media baron Subhash Chandra, an Independent who was backed by the party, defeated a Congress-INLD backed Independent in Haryana.

For the Congress, the news should have been good too, as four of the six seats that it won were secured with support from friendly parties: the bad news for the party came from Haryana, where the candidate it had backed, senior lawyer R.K. Anand, lost because 15 votes intended for him were rejected.

The second seat in Haryana was won by Union Rural Development Minister Birender Singh.

The elections to 27 Rajya Sabha seats, spread across seven States, saw the BJP win 11 with four going to sitting central ministers and the Congress winning six. The Samajwadi Party secured seven seats and the Bahujan Samaj Party two, while a BJP-supported Independent won one.

Earlier, 30 of the total 57 seats in the current round of biennial elections to the Upper House were decided without a contest.

In Karnataka, the Congress demonstrated its political skills: it won not just the two seats for which it had the votes — electing Jairam Ramesh and Oscar Fernandes — but a third as well, with eight JD(S) rebel MLAs supporting the Congress candidate to ensure the victory of K.C. Ramamurthy, former IPS officer and Chairman, CMR Group of Institutions. The fourth seat in the State was won by Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman.

In Uttar Pradesh, where elections were held for 11 seats, the BJP won just one seat.

Saturday’s Rajya Sabha polls saw the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) help the Congress win two seats — one in Madhya Pradesh, where the party had fielded lawyer Vivek Tankha, and another in Uttarakhand, where Pradip Tamta, a loyalist of Chief Minister Harsh Rawat, won.

The victors in Uttar Pradesh included party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav’s one time alter ego Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma, both of whom returned to the party recently, and senior leader Reoti Raman Singh. Its seventh candidate who was short of votes squeaked through with the help of the Ajit Singh-led RLD.

The Congress’s Kapil Sibal trounced the BJP-backed independent socialite Preeti Mahapatra with the help of the BSP, which had 12 votes more than necessary for the success of its own candidates Satish Chandra Mishra and Ashok Sidharth, who have both been elected.

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP’s M.J. Akbar and Anil Dave sailed through while its third candidate, Vinod Gotia, lost to the Congress’s Vivek Tankha.

Rajasthan saw the BJP’s Union Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, party Vice President Om Prakash Mathur, former RBI official Ram Kumar Sharma and Harsh Vardhan Singh, a member of the erstwhile Dungarpur royal family victorious.

Mr. Singh was forced into a contest as a Congress-backed Independent candidate Kamal Morarka, a former union minister, was in the fray.

In Jharkhand, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was elected to one the two seats while his BJP colleague, Mahesh Poddar, eventually defeated Jharkhand Mukti Morcha supremo Shibu Soren’s son, Basant, who was being backed by the rest of the opposition.

The Congress accused the ruling BJP of using “money and muscle power” to influence this elections, citing arrest warrants issued against two of its lawmakers and the arrest of a JMM legislator on Friday night.

On Saturday, the defeat of Congress-INLD supported independent candidate R.K. Anand in Haryana , thanks to 15 votes being wasted, may be the start of turmoil in its State unit, party sources hinted.

Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who had expressed his displeasure on Friday at the party backing Mr Anand in the company of rival INLD, himself cast a blank vote. Not just that, the Congress’s communication boss Randeep Singh Surjewala’s vote was cancelled because he had reportedly shown it to colleague Kiran Chowdhury, a charge he denied while speaking to The Hindu. Another 13 votes cast for Mr Anand were rejected because of technical reasons — they were written in the wrong coloured ink. Later, general secretary in charge BK Hariprasad said that these were not Congress votes that were rejected, but were from the INLD.

However, given Mr Hooda’s display of unhappiness on Friday and the fact that at least 12 of the party MLAs owe allegiance to him, Congress sources said the party could well be heading for a split, and that Haryana may well go the Chattisgarh way. (Courtesy The Hindu)