Changed legislative math may play spoiler for BJP
Ahmedabad: The ruling BJP may have to part with two of its Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat due to change in the legislative arithmetic after last year's state polls.
The elections for 58 Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant across the country are slated to be held on March 23. Out of these seats, four are in Gujarat which are presently held by the BJP.
As per the number of seats won in the Gujarat Assembly elections held in December last year, both the BJP and the Congress are poised to get two seats each to the Upper House of Parliament.
In the state Assembly polls, the BJP's tally reduced to 99 in 2017 from 115 in 2012, while the Congress managed to increase its numbers to 77 from the previous 60.
The dilemma for the BJP will be to select two candidates, as out of the present four Rajya Sabha members, three are ministers –- Arun Jaitely, Purshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandaviya -- and the fourth MP, Shankarbhai Vegad, is an OBC (other backward classes) leader.
"The BJP has 99 MLAs, while the Congress has 77 legislators in the state Assembly after the 2017 polls.
As per the Rajya Sabha election rules, one candidate will require 38 votes to sail through. So both the parties are expected to win two seats each," a state Assembly official said.
The state Congress general secretary, Nishit Vyas, said, "The party can definitely take away two Rajya Sabha seats from the BJP due to the number of our MLAs. We require 38 first preferential votes and we have the numbers for it."
Sources in the Congress said intense lobbying was going on within the party to secure Rajya Sabha berths.
"Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki, and leaders who lost the Assembly polls, like Shaktisinh Gohil, Arjun Modhwadia, Siddarth Patel and Tushar Chaudhary are likely to be in fray for the seats," a party source said.
However, the source also said that the final decision regarding the candidates will be taken by the party high command in New Delhi.
For the BJP, the choice is likely to be difficult as it may get to retain only two ministers, and may possibly have to shift one of its ministers to another state, a party source said.
Finance minister Jaitely has been representing Gujarat in the Rajya Sabha for last three terms from 2000.
The BJP's chief whip in the Assembly, Pankaj Desai, said the selection of the candidates (for the Rajya Sabha polls) will be done by the party's central leadership.
In August last year, the BJP and the Congress had bitterly fought the Rajya Sabha polls. For the then election to three seats, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel was one of the candidates.
About five to six Congress MLAs had resigned prior to the election, while some legislators had cross-voted. The Congress had to even take its MLAs to a resort near Bengaluru to avoid "poaching".
Patel later managed to retain his seat, with his victory being a morale booster for the party workers ahead of state Assembly polls held in December.
The BJP candidates who had that time won the Rajya Sabha polls were party president Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani.