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Power games: Parties go all out to win Rajya Sabha polls

On paper, the Congress candidate appears set for a comfortable victory. But Mahajan’s entry into the arena has queered the pitch for the state’s ruling party.

Screenshot 2024 02 19 091524NEW DELHI: The current round of Rajya Sabha elections is witnessing a keen contest between parties. No effort is being spared to win over rival MLAs and engineer cross-voting. Every party is trying to shore up its strength in the Upper House, especially the BJP. The BJP’s decision to field the eighth candidate in Uttar Pradesh and one in Himachal Pradesh has surprised many. It does not have the numbers to get these candidates elected. There are 10 vacancies in UP. The BJP has the numbers to get seven candidates elected. The SP’s strength can ensure a comfortable win for two candidates. But it has fielded three. In UP, 37 votes are required to win one seat in the Rajya Sabha. The Samajwadi Party has 108 votes. Out of this, one MLA – Pallavi Patel – has announced that she’ll not vote for the two forward caste candidates fielded by her party – cine star Jaya Bachchan and former chief secretary of the state Alok Ranjan. Two other MLAs of SP are in jail. This has brought down the party’s effective strength to 105. This is the shortfall that the BJP’s eighth candidate Sanjay Seth – a prominent realtor and former treasurer of the Samajwadi Party – is trying to exploit. If Seth manages to win over some of his old friends in SP, it will cause a major upset and lead to the defeat of one of the three SP candidates.

Similarly in Himachal Pradesh, the BJP has fielded former Congressman Harsh Mahajan even though the party does not have the numbers to get him elected. The party is hoping that Mahajan will be able to win the votes of the Congress MLAs who are reportedly unhappy with the party for fielding Abhishek Manu Singhvi, an “outsider”. In Himachal, votes of 35 MLAs are required for a candidate to get elected to the Rajya Sabha. In the 68-member House, the Congress currently has 40 MLAs, the BJP has 25 and there are three independents. On paper, the Congress candidate appears set for a comfortable victory. But Mahajan’s entry into the arena has queered the pitch for the state’s ruling party.

Even as former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and senior Congress leader Kamal Nath is busy negotiating with the BJP, many other senior Congress leaders are queuing up to join the ruling party in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. Sources said among the prominent leaders who are reportedly headed towards the BJP are former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat and ex-president of the Punjab state Congress Navjot Singh Sidhu. Sidhu has been sidelined by the Congress in Punjab and he has been holding independent public meetings. There have been calls for disciplinary action against him for holding parallel meetings.

According to sources, the Congress central leadership is unlikely to give him any major responsibility after the party’s disastrous performance in the Punjab state elections under his leadership. Sidhu is now reportedly looking at BJP as an option. Sources said Rawat has also been contacted by the BJP. There was talk of his joining the party some time back when the state chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited him at his residence. However, Rawat dismissed the speculations saying there is no question of his leaving the Congress at this stage of his life. But sources said the BJP may be able to persuade him this time round.

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