RS polls to 16 seats are set for a keen contest

Fearing cross-voting, the BJP, Congress and JD(S) all resort to packing off their legislators to five-star resorts.

With 41 candidates already elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha from 11 states, all eyes are now on 16 seats left to be contested today. The contest for the remaining 16 seats is mainly between the BJP and the Opposition in four states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka. There are speculations of cross-voting rife in political circles, and charges of horse trading flying thick and fast in Rajasthan. No surprise then if both political blocs are busy trying to keep their flocks of legislators together and the RS polls are going to be a keenly contested affair.

What has made the RS elections an interesting affair this time around is the presence of many political big wigs as candidates in the poll fray. Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal, Ajay Maken, Sanjay Raut, Praful Patel, Jairam Ramesh, Randeep Surjewala, Rajeev Shukla and Mukul Wasik have been fielded by their respective parties.

Media baron Subhash Chandra created ripples in political circles when he decided to contest from Rajasthan as an independent candidate. He was elected to Rajya Sabha from Haryana with BJP support last time around.

Fearing cross-voting, the Congress Party in Rajasthan has moved its legislators to a hotel in Udaipur in an attempt to keep its flock together. The move came after speculations of horse-trading allegedly by Chandra began doing the rounds. What is worrying the Congress leadership are those six MLAs who had defected over to Congress after winning elections on BSP ticket in

2018, but who are said to be not happy with the treatment they have received from the party.

Congress has fielded Randeep Singh Surjewala, Mukul Wasnik and Pramod Tiwari from Rajasthan. In the 200-member Assembly, Congress and its allies have 122 MLAs. The party is set to win two seats but falls short of 15 votes to win the third, which makes the contest tricky for the party. With 71 MLAs, the BJP has fielded Ghanshyam Tiwari as its candidate and has extended support to Chandra. But the poll arithmetic does not look favourable to the Zee TV owner as the BJP would need 11 more votes to help him sail through.

Another keenly watched contest would be in Haryana, where Congress has fielded a veteran like Ajay Maken. But with iTV founder Kartikeya Sharma entering the fray, things have become trickier for the party than in Rajasthan. With BJP and its ally JJP having 50 MLAs in the 90-member Assembly, its candidate Krishan Lal Panwar is all set to win. Sharma, though a debutant, has emerged as a dark horse, who can throw a surprise. He has already secured support from both BJP and JJP. With Maken being looked upon as a rank outsider by the local Haryana Congress, there are disgruntled elements who may crossover to the opposite side on election day. No surprise if the party has packed its legislators off to the cosy confines of a hotel in Raipur in Chhattisgarh.

Down south, Maharashtra is set to see a high-voltage contest on D-Day, with the likes of Piyush Goyal, Sanjay Raut and Praful Patel entering the arena. The Rajya Sabha elections used to be a tad tame affair earlier as candidates were elected unopposed to the Upper House. The Shiv Sena–NCP–INC combine has 152 MLAs on its side, while 12 Independents and legislators from smaller parties have pledged support to MVA candidates. With 106 legislators on its side, it will be far from a smooth ride for the BJP.

Like Maharashtra, RS polls in Karnataka for four seats are expected to be as much a heated contest. What has made the contest so keen is the fact that though both the BJP and the Congress–JD(S) combine have not enough votes, yet they each have fielded an extra candidate. The BJP has fielded Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman from the state. The BJP has 121 MLAs, which makes it difficult for its fourth candidate. With 101 legislators on their side, both Congress and JD(S) could have together won one seat each, but fissures have emerged between them. JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy on Thursday moved all his party MLAs to a hotel to prevent poaching alleging that the Congress leadership was not interested in defeating the BJP and was playing ‘dirty politics’.