The biennial elections are being held amid allegations of attempts at horse-trading by rival parties which have corralled their MLAs in hotels and scenic resorts.
Elections were announced for a total of 57 Rajya Sabha seats of which 41 candidates in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Telangana, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand were declared elected unopposed last Friday.
Rajya Sabha strength
The strength of the Rajya Sabha is 245 out of which BJP has 95 members and Congress 29.
They are followed by parties like TMC (13), DMK (10), BJD (8) and AAP (8). The remaining seats are divided between other parties and Independent members.
Out of the 57 seats that went to polls, BJP held 24. Following the election, the party is likely to retain just 20 seats, bringing its upper house tally to 91 from 95.
However, the strength could go up again after the BJP nominates members for the vacant seats.
Why is Rajya Sabha important?
The Rajya Sabha, or the council of states, is a revisionary house that facilitates checks and balances when it comes to laws passed by Parliament. A platform for diverse talent and expertise, the upper house of Parliament is not subject to dissolution.
The Rajya Sabha has equal footing in legislation with the Lok Sabha except in some cases. Rajya Sabha has a limited role in the case of money bills. It cannot introduce or amend a money bill, but can recommend amendments within a stipulated time. Lok Sabha may either accept or reject all or any of these.
However, Rajya Sabha enjoys some special powers.
If it passes a resolution by a majority of not less than two-thirds of members present and voting, saying that it is “necessary or expedient in the national interest” that Parliament should make a law on a matter enumerated in the State List, Parliament becomes empowered to make a law on the subject. Such a resolution remains in force for a maximum of one year but this period can be extended by one year at a time by passing a similar resolution.
A similar route can be adopted for recommending creation of one or more All India Services common to the Union and the states. Parliament becomes empowered to create such services.
Other key roles
As the second and permanent chamber of Parliament, Rajya Sabha plays a vital role in formulating laws and policies.
The union government cannot make a law on a matter reserved for states without any authorisation from the Rajya Sabha.
Of the President, as empowered by the Constitution, issues proclamations in the event of national emergency, in the event of failure of constitutional machinery in a State, or in the case of financial emergency”. Every such proclamation has to be approved by both houses of Parliament within a stipulated period.
The Rajya Sabha, by a two-thirds supermajority, can also pass a resolution empowering the Indian government to create more all-India services common to both the union and the states.
Bearing on Presidential elections
The current Rajya Sabha elections won’t have much of an impact on the presidential polls since the BJP-led NDA is comfortably placed to win with its vote share touching the 50 per cent mark of the total electors.
There are 776 members of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, each having 700 votes. Plus, there are as many as 4,033 legislators in states with different votes who will also elect Ram Nath Kovind’s successor.
Though the final list of electors will be notified after the by-elections to three Lok Sabha seats and the Rajya Sabha polls to 16 seats, the NDA has 440 MPs in its favour while the opposition UPA has around 180 MPs, besides 36 MPs of Trinamool Congress who normally support the opposition candidate.
But having an effective strength in the Rajya Sabha does help a party sail through the presidential elections.
(With inputs from agencies)