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Extra Players To Play Key Role In Rajya Sabha Elections
In the five States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the BJP is short of the number in winning beyond two seats in the upcoming elections to the Rajya Sabha
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As much as the BJP is confident about winning at least one of the Rajya Sabha seats to be polled on June 11 in five States, non-BJP forces claim to have mustered enough support to reach the magic number to win another seat. This confidence in both the camps has virtually put the fate of the extra candidates fielded by the BJP to bag additional seats in the balance. At the same time, however, these extra players are believed to be potent enough to decide the credentials of the parties in the fray.
In the five States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the BJP is short of the number in winning beyond two seats in the upcoming elections to the Rajya Sabha. But, in a desperate move to outnumber the Congress in the upper house, the party aims to win additional seats by fielding extra candidates. Incidentally, these extra candidates are supposed to have been drafted ostensibly to mobilize votes from other parties ‘by hook or by crook’ to add to surplus votes of the party.
In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP needs to have at least 37 votes to win one of the 11 seats to be polled. The party has a numerical strength of only 41 MLAs and has four surplus votes. The party has fielded its State Vice-president Shiv Pratap Shukla but has extended support with its surplus votes to Preeti Mohapatra. The wife of an industrialist from Gujarat, she is believed to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. The nomination of Mohapatra was proposed by BJP legislators besides MLAs from smaller parties.
In Haryana, the BJP will be able to bag a single seat with its total strength of 47 MLAs in a house of 90 members. At least 31 votes are required to win each of the two seats to be polled and it has fielded Union Minister Chaudhary Birendra Singh for one seat. As such, the party has 16 surplus votes and needs 15 more votes to win the second seat. Consequently, it has decided to support media baron Subhash Chandra as its dummy candidate. He claims to have the support of BJP and other parties as well.
Similarly, the party is supposed to win one of the two RS seats in Jharkhand, though it has preferred to put up a second candidate too. At least 28 votes are required to win each seat and the BJP has a numerical strength of 47 MLAs with its ally AJSU. As such, in order to bag one seat, the party has fielded Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi but it has also fielded Mahesh Poddar, a local industrialist, for the second seat. The party has 19 surplus votes and it needs 9 more votes to win the second seat.
In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP will be able to win two of the three RS seats to be polled. The party has fielded M J Akbar and Anil Madhav Dave for the two seats and each seat needs at least 58 votes. With its total strength of 166 in the house, the BJP has surplus votes of 50 MLAs and it opted to field Vinod Gotia, an office bearer of the State BJP, as its dummy candidate to mobilize eight remaining votes. Incidentally, the Congress is short of a single vote having a strength of 57 in the house and it has fielded Vivek Tankha. As such, both the parties are negotiating with the Bahujan Samaj Party -- that has four MLAs -- and three Independent members in the house.
Lastly, in Uttrakhand, the BJP has declined from nominating any candidate for reasons best known to the party leadership, though its two leaders, Gita Thakur and Anil Goel, have filed nominations as Independent candidates against the joint candidate of the ruling Congress party in the State and the Peoples Democratic Front, Pradeep Tamta.
However, the ploy to field ‘extra players’ or ‘dummy candidates’ by the BJP to mobilize additional votes to win second or third seats do not augur well. While, on the one hand, the on-going negotiation and tacit-deal to fetch additional votes by BJP nominees and BJP-supported candidates are likely to vitiate the free and fair elections, at the same time, defeat or victory of these candidates would have an implicit impact on the credential of the BJP. If the party’s failure to bag the extra seat would amount to a major loss of face and subsequent accusation of encouraging dubious practices in RS polls, its victory without a substantial number of votes on its own would divest the party from the right to beat its chest against the unscrupulous roles played by its adversaries to gain political mileage time and again. The party would, however, outwit rivals by increasing its strength in the upper house.
To top it all, barring Haryana, the BJP is unlikely to win the extra seat in the poll-bound States. While the party has only four surplus votes in U.P. and its dummy candidate, Preeti Mohapatra lags far behind the magic number of 37, in Jharkhand the entire opposition is believed to be united in supporting their joint candidate Basant Soren of the JMM and the BJP’s second candidate Mahesh Poddar needs 9 more votes with the party’s surplus votes of 19 MLAs.
Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, the party needs 8 votes with the surplus votes of 50 MLAs for the third seat, but it is short of one vote to reach the magic number even if it could garner support from the BSP that has four votes and three votes of independent MLAs. On the other hand, the Congress that is contesting a single seat has 57 votes and needs one more vote from outside to win the seat.
In Uttrakhand, the fate of two ‘unofficial candidates’ from the BJP cadre in the fray for a single RS seat is a foregone conclusion. The candidate of the ruling Congress party is strong enough to win the election with its numerical strength of 33 -- including allies -- as against the required votes of 32 excluding 9 disqualified MLAs of Congress. The BJP has 28 MLAs in the State Assembly.
Indeed, in Haryana, the BJP-supported independent candidate, Subhash Chandra, is likely to get the support from the INLD of O.P. Chautala too and may be able to mobilize 15 extra votes. Although another independent candidate and former member to Rajya Sabha from Jharkhand, R. K. Anand is claimed to have the support of INLD as he was accompanied by the leader of the opposition in State Assembly and Chautala’s son, Abhay Chautala while filing his nomination. Chandra had gone with some BJP leaders. The Chautalas -- who are facing serious graft cases and father Chautala has been in jail -- are expected to stand by Chandra presumably under a tacit understanding to garner support in their legal battle from the party in power at the Centre in return.
As such, the extra candidates are all set to play a key role in salvaging or maligning the impeccable credentials of the BJP.