- BJP now has 86 seats while Congress is down to 41 in Rajya Sabha
- The NDA now has nearly 100 members in 245-member House
- The polls, initially scheduled for March, got delayed over COVID-19
With the result of the latest round of biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha being declared last evening, the BJP-led NDA has further widened its gap with the Opposition in the Upper House of Parliament, with the BJP now having 86 seats, while rival Congress is down to 41.
The National Democratic Alliance now has nearly 100 members in the 245-member House. If the support of friendly parties like the AIADMK (9 seats), BJD (9 seats), YSR Congress Party (6 seats), and several allied nominated members and smaller parties is counted, then the Modi government is unlikely to face any serious numerical challenge in the House.
The BJP has relied on its strength in the assemblies coupled with defection from other parties, especially the Congress, to boost its strength in the Rajya Sabha, where its numerical disadvantage often hindered the Modi government's legislative agenda in its first term from 2014 to 2019.
The Election Commission had announced biennial polls to 61 seats, including 55 in March, but the process was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With 42 members elected unopposed earlier, the Bharatiya Janata Party won eight, Congress and the YSR Congress won four each and others won three of the 19 seats that went to polls on Friday.
The BJP won a couple of more seats than it could have on the strength of its numbers because of defection from several Congress legislators in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
In total, the BJP won 17, Congress nine, Nitish Kumar's JDU got three, BJD and the TMC four each, AIADMK and DMK three each, NCP, RJD and the TRS two each, and others got the remaining seats, official sources told news agency Press Trust of India.
The crumbling strength of the Opposition, whose key pillars include the Congress, Trinamool Congress and the Left, has been evident since last year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP to its biggest ever victory as it won 303 seats in Lok Sabha election.
It prompted a host of defections from the Opposition, including Rajya Sabha members of the Congress, TDP and the Samajwadi Party, to the BJP, and many non-NDA regional parties chose to back the government in Parliament on crucial issues.
The Congress has accused the BJP of "horse-trading", alleging that it had engineered defections from its ranks for political gains.
The government managed big support in Parliament to its resolution to nullify Article 370 and key bills like the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. It also got support on the bill against Triple Talaq (instant divorce).
The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was also passed in both the Houses of Parliament.
Out of the 61 new members, 43 are first-timers, which include BJP's Jyotiraditya Scindia and Congress's Mallikarjun Kharge. Both have been members of Lok Sabha, but lost from their constituencies in the 2019 general elections.
Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and former Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai have also been elected to the Rajya Sabha.
The legislative agenda of the Modi government in its first term was often hampered in Parliament due to the Opposition's numerical superiority in the Upper House, and the Congress had more numbers than the BJP in the first few years of the Modi government.
However, the BJP's impressive gains in the assembly elections, coupled with the Congress losing power in several states, resulted in slow but steady rise in the government's numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
However, setbacks faced by the BJP in recent state selections (since 2018) has also meant that its goal of gaining a full majority on its own in the Rajya Sabha remains far from being achieved.