The shape of new Rajya Sabha gives BJP effective numbers to get GST pass

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Results of elections to 27 Rajya Sabha seats held on Saturday threw up many surprises. The BJP secured an unlikely victory in one of the seats in Jharkhand. Also, media magnate Subhash Chandra, whom the party had backed in Haryana, also won.

The biennial elections were to be held for 57 seats of which 30 candidates were elected unopposed. After the results, the BJP has increased its tally in the Rajya Sabha but the Congress continues to remain the single-largest party. However, the shape of the new Rajya Sabha gives the government effective numbers to get the Goods and Services Tax (GST) constitution amendment Bill passed in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament, likely to begin on July 25.

The big surprise was Chandra’s victory after the Congress had asked its legislators to vote for Indian National Lok Dal candidate R K Anand. Chandra, chairman of the Zee group, had claimed support of individual legislators in the two parties.

Rajya Sabha polls throw up some surprises In a related development, the government nominated social activist Sambhaji Raje Chhatrapati to the Rajya Sabha. He has been nominated to the only vacant seat among the dozen nominated members. The government had filled the other six vacancies in this category in May.

Raje is a direct descendant of Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji, who is lionised by the Sangh Parivar for his battles against Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. He also traces his lineage to Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur who had supported Dalit leader and architect of the Constitution B R Ambedkar.

As for the biennial elections, in Karnataka, the Janata Dal (Secular) received a setback. Some party legislators voted for Congress’s K C Ramamurthy to help him defeat JD (S) candidate BM Farooq, a businessman. Of the four vacancies in Karnataka, the Congress won three and BJP one. Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was elected on the BJP ticket while Ramamurthy, Jairam Ramesh and Oscar Fernandes on Congress tickets.

In another surprise, BJP won both the vacancies from Jharkhand. Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s election was already assured, but the party’s Mahesh Poddar was also elected. Poddar, a businessman, defeated the joint opposition candidate Basant Soren. Basant is the son of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren and was promised support by Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal legislators. However, abstentions helped Poddar’s cause. One JMM legislator and one Congress legislator could not cast vote as both faced arrest warrants. The JMM MLA was arrested before he could cast his vote.

In Uttar Pradesh, Congress leader Kapil Sibal scraped through despite the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislators not helping him with their extra votes. The BJP had supported Independent Preeti Mahapatra to make Sibal’s election difficult but she conceded defeat having received only the BJP’s extra 18 votes. Of the 11 vacancies, the Samajwadi Party won seven seats, BSP two and BJP and Congress one each. Those elected include SP’s Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma and BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra.

In Madhya Pradesh, Congress candidate Vivek Tankha found support from BSP legislators. The BJP had tried to make Supreme Court lawyer Tankha’s entry into Rajya Sabha difficult by fielding party leader Vinod Gotia as an Independent. Other two seats were won by BJP’s MJ Akbar and Anil Dave.

In Rajasthan, BJP swept all four seats, including that of Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu. In Uttarakhand, Congress candidate Pradeep Tamta won the lone seat.