An upper hand in the Upper House

Now that the dust has settled on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s historic victory in Uttar Pradesh, let’s get down to the big question: how close does it get the ruling National Democratic Alliance to a Rajya Sabha majority, and when? The government’s minority status in the RS has slowed and even halted important elements of its legislative agenda, such as the GST and land acquisition amendments. An upper house majority would greatly strengthen its ability to pass bills, but it could also embolden the Sangh Parivar to push its core ideological issues such as a uniform civil code, eliminating Article 370 and perhaps even transforming India into a “Hindu Rashtra”.

Here’s what the Rajya Sabha currently looks like:

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 1.36.32 PM.png

UP is clearly the prize in the RS: it contributes 31 of the upper house’s 245 seats, of which ten will have elections in 2018 and another ten in 2020. With a supermajority in the UP state assembly, the BJP is likely to win seven new seats from UP in each round (it already has three RS MPs in UP).

Adding up all the states, the NDA will gain a total of 18 seats in 2017 and 2018 (including two grabbed from the Congress Party in Goa and Manipur), while the Congress Party and its allies’ tally will drop by a similar amount.

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 1.38.45 PM.png

Those are meaningful shifts in seats, but not enough to give the NDA control of the upper house, where it will remain short by about 30 seats (as this blog anticipated in 2014). It will continue to require the support of regional parties like the Trinamool Congress, AIADMK and Samajwadi Party to pass bills through the RS.

Things improve for the NDA in 2019 and 2020. If we assume no major changes in the state elections held in 2018 and 2019 (a strong but unavoidable assumption since we can’t predict the future), the NDA approaches an RS majority only in 2020.

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 1.40.10 PM.png

The ruling coalition will still fall a few seats short, but should be able to corral support from a wide selection of regional parties to pass bills. The good news, at least for people wary of the BJP’s Hindutva agenda, is that the BJP will lack the power to change India’s constitution. But it should be able to push economic reform bills through both houses if its allies are supportive.

The bad news: the BJP has every intention – as revealed by Adityanath’s anointment as UP chief minister – to push ahead with hardline Hindutva. And if the environment is polarized enough, there is no guarantee that the BJP’s allies won’t cave to an aggressive right-wing assertion. Assuming, of course, that 2019 is in the bag for the BJP.

3 thoughts on “An upper hand in the Upper House

  1. sorry to say this .. after witnessing the way finance bill was passed .. they don’t need to have a majority RS … they can make democracy bleed to death .. still many educated people are not realizing the correlation between removing cap on corporates political funding vs taking over tribunals .. where we are heading

  2. swamy

    so far, the powers have only ‘occupied’ power when the results were hung. They have not yet been sworn in where they have lost the elections…well, not just yet. i hope this happens very soon.

    people should have ‘woken’ up in large numbers a few [more than 15 ]years ago when the gujarat model was gaining fame and prominence. if they choose to participate in the ‘acche din’, then who are the intellectuals to object.

    not sure if you would promote other columnists, but i find this link appropriate in this context

    some gyaan might also be gained by reading the book ‘gujarat files’ by rana ayyub. not being compensated for plugging it, but i found that book somewhat accurately reflects the historical context of the times,as the author portrays it.

    cheer up, the worst is yet to come. the hindutva project is only starting in earnest now.

  3. swamy

    here is what i would guess would happen next, logically speaking :

    fewer killings. this means that you might get beaten within an inch of your life, but no outright killing. this rule will work only for mobs. when someone makes it a ‘personal project’ to end you, there will be a general ‘he was a member of our team, but not anymore’, until the goal is achieved. there will always be arms-length support provided, but it will not be legally provable.

    excessive property damage. every small tiff might lead you to lose almost everything you have.

    fewer burnol brigade posts. this is a consequence of the above two, so i don’t know whether to laugh or cry about this.

    reminds me of the 1930s in a certain european country.

    while i would like it to not go there, i would not be surprised if it did.

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