- BJP to field 11 candidates for 10 Rajya Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh
- BJP's move after Naresh Agarwal joined the party on Monday
- Mr Agarwal said his son, a Samajwadi Party MLA, will crossvote for BJP
The BJP, after its massive sweep of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh last year, has votes to win eight of the Rajya Sabha seats, with some left over but not enough to win a ninth seat on its own. Its new move to field 11 nominees came on a day a senior Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal joined the BJP and said at least one Samajwadi legislator in UP, his son Nitin Agrawal will crossvote for the BJP in the elections. The BJP will hope there are more when voting happens on March 23.
"Whatever work the BJP gives me I will accept it. We will do seva for the BJP. I promise to deliver fully," Naresh Agrawal said in his speech on Monday, praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah.
Members of a state assembly elect Rajya Sabha members by what is called proportional representation with a single transferable vote. Each voter ranks his preference, and if the first candidate on the list has enough votes to win, or no chance of winning, the vote is transferred to the next choice and so on.
The UP assembly has 404 members. A candidate needs 37 MLA votes to win. The Samajwadi Party has 47 -- or 46 if Naresh Aggarwal's son votes for the BJP -- and the party's chief Akhilesh Yadav has pledged the extra votes to Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has only 19 legislators and is counting on Mr Yadav's support and that of the Congress and smaller parties to barely scrape through to put its nominee in the Rajya Sabha, in a rare arrangement that is seen to test an anti-BJP front for the 2019 national election.
The Congress has seven MLAs and the Nishad Party and the RLD have one each. Which means the BSP needs nine Samajwadi votes to make it. That is exactly the number the SP has to spare now if none of its other MLAs crossvote.
The BJP move could not just derail the BSP's chance at a Rajya Sabha seat, it could also potentially jeopardise the election of Samajwadi Party's lone nominee Jaya Bachchan, picked by the party over Naresh Agarwal, who quit and joined the BJP in a huff.
With its gigantic majority in the UP assembly, the BJP has 28 extra legislator votes left over even after the victory of the first eight candidates who will sail through -- they include union finance minister Arun Jaitley.
The three extra candidates are Salil Bishnoi, Vidya Sagar Sonkar and Anil Agrawal.
Last year the BJP forced a contest in Gujarat, when three seats were up grabs. The BJP had enough votes for party chief Amit Shah and union minister Smriti Irani to win comfortably, but it fielded a candidate against senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, who was seeking re-election to the third seat. Mr Patel just scraped through.
By-elections are being held for 58 Rajya Sabha seats in 16 states on March 23, including the 10 in UP. The BJP and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have the numbers in state assemblies after a series of wins, to take their tally in the Rajya Sabha up by at least 10 more seats - the NDA has 86 members in the 245-seat house and will go up to at least 96 after these elections, still short but closer to the halfway mark at 123.
Every seat counts in a House where the BJP-led government has been in a minority for the last four years it has been in power. It has struggled to push legislation, with key bills being stalled by the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, after they have sailed through the Lok Sabha or lower house of parliament, where the BJP and allies have a big majority.