Though the BJP won the 2014 Lok Sabha election with a clear majority, they have been finding it difficult to pass bills in the Upper House or the Rajya Sabha. Since the members of the Rajya Sabha are elected by the MLAs in states, BJP had lesser numbers than the Congress in the Rajya Sabha to start with. But with Congress facing successive defeats in various states, this scenario set to change in the coming years. The previous set of elections in May 2016 in the five states of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam & Puducherry did not help the BJP in increasing its tally in the Rajya Sabha. But the landslide victory in UP and other recent victories of BJP will help the BJP win a lot more Rajya Sabha seats in 2018.
Each state has a fixed number of Rajya Sabha seats based on the population. The Rajya Sabha members are elected by the method of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote (STV), very similar to how the members of legislative councils in states are elected. Members keep retiring after their 6-year tenure and elections take place as and when there is a vacancy. The formula for the minimum number of votes needed to elect a member of the Rajya Sabha from a state is the following.
Current Composition of the Rajya Sabha
Out of the 243 members of the Rajya Sabha, 73 belong to the UPA, 74 to the NDA, 88 Others and 8 are nominated. The bulk of the others come from the regional parties like SP, BSP, AIADMK, AITC, BJD, JD(U), CPI(M) etc. Though there are 12 nominated members currently serving their term in the Rajya Sabha, four of them joined the BJP and are counted as a part of the BJP’s strength in the house. A nominated member can join a political party within the first six months of being nominated to the house as per the rules.
Retirements before the 2019 Lok Sabha General Elections
Ten (10) members of the Rajya Sabha will retire in 2017 while 68 members will retire in 2018. Eight (8) members are set to retire in 2019, but none of them will retire before the 2019 general elections to the Lok Sabha. In all, 78 seats of the Rajya Sabha are up for grabs before the 2019 elections. Four (4) of these vacancies will be of the nominated members.
No gains for the BJP in 2017
BJP/NDA will not see any net gain in the Rajya Sabha numbers in 2017. Out of the 10 seats on offer, 6 of them are from West Bengal where the BJP/NDA is not in a position to win any. In Gujarat, the BJP will retain its two seats. In Goa, the lone seat will be go to that party which can form the government. Since the BJP currently holds that seat, there will no net gain to the BJP even if it were to form the government and win the seat.
NDA will gain 10+ seats in 2018
The real gains for the NDA will come in 2018 when Rajya Sabha elections will happen in 19 different states. The biggest gain will be in UP where the BJP/NDA is in a position to win 8 out of the 10 seats on offer, a net gain of 7 seats. The BJP/NDA will also gain in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand. The BJP/NDA will also lose some seats in the states of Bihar, Karnataka and Telangana. In all, BJP/NDA will gain about 11 seats while the UPA will lose 11 seats. The others will maintain their share of seats even in 2018. Since Gujarat & Himachal elections are due in 2017, the outcome in these states will depend on the election results. Four (4) nominated members also retire in 2018 giving the BJP an opportunity to nominate members of their choice. If these 4 nominated members also choose to join the BJP after their nomination, the strength of the NDA will further go up.