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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 5 February 3, 2024

Rajya Sabha Poll Results—Politics sans Principles | P S Jayaramu

Friday 1 March 2024

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28th February,2024

Results of the elections held to Rajya Sabhaij in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh are out. The outcomes demonstrate the tightening of the BJP’s hold over the North India, the near decimation of Congress in Himachal Pradesh if the government falls as a result of it’s members cross voting and moving over to the BJP and the failure of the Samajwadi Party to hold it’s flock together resulting in the chief whip of the Party himself voting to the BJP.

Let me analyse the results. I take up first the state of Karnataka. There were four vacant positions, elections for which were conducted. Going by the number of seats held by the Congress and the BJP in the state assembly, it was clear that the Congress would win three seats and the BJP one. The results were on expected lines. What is however clear is that the Siddaramaiah Shiva Kumar duo, not only held their flock together, but managed to get the vote of one BJP member Somashekar to it’s candidate and convinced the other BJP member Shivaram Hebbar to abstain from voting. The results demonstrate that the Congress Party is a strong force in the State, no matter how much the BJP, its central and state leadership, try to weaken it. However, the Lok Sabha polls may be a different ball game.

The BJP which is in alliance with the Janata Dal (S) for the Lok Sabah polls, unwisely yielded to the pressures of the JD(S) leadership to put up a fifth candidate with the hope of getting some cross voting from Congress members but the effort failed miserably. Given that the JD(S) has only 19 members in the state assembly, it was next to impossible for both the JD(S) and BJP leadership to see a success of their plans. The BJP’s central leadership should not have agreed to such an exercise, knowing full well its own candidate would win. Given the near-existential crisis the JD(S) is faced with, it was clear that it’s putting up a fifth candidate was doomed to fail.

I would go a step further and say that the alliance the BJP has entered into with the JD (S) for the Lok Sabha polls was also unnecessary as the deal may not yield any real benefits to the BJP. It looks like the BJP central leadership were/ are paranoid of the Congress Party winning substantially in the Lok Sabah polls. Such a fear led to BJP’s unpricipled alliance which is resented by the workers of both the parties at the state level. After all, the two parties have fought against each other in the assembly elections all these years.BJP described the JD(S) as the ‘B’ team of the Congress in the past. JD(S) national President had in the past talked of his secular credentials not allowing to team up with the BJP. But, as we know, Po, itics make strange bed-fellows. For the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is reported to have agreed to cede 5 seats to the JD(S), thereby agreeing to contest in only 23 constituencies. It is anybody’s guess as to how many out of the 23 seats the Party will win.

Even for the JD (S), pragmatically speaking, the alliance decision was not needed as it would perhaps win on its own 1-2 seats. If the Congress Party puts up, as it is reported, a good number of its popular ministers as candidates, it is likely to cost the BJP and the JD (S) electorally. These are issues which the alliance leaders should have seriously pondered over.

As for the BJP, as already noted, the Party has scored significant victories in the U P Rajya Sabah elections. Instead of the 7 seats it was expected to win, based on it’s numerical strength in the assembly, it has won the eighth seat also, thanks to cross-voting by the SP legislators. SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav has conceded defeat to the BJP, though two of his candidates have won. Speculation is already rife that the Rajya Sabha poll results may place the BJP in an advantageous position in the Lok Sabha contest. Inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya may move some of the uncommitted voters to the BJP fold.

Himachal Pradesh’s results have come as a surprise as the ruling Congress failed to ensure the victory of its candidate, Abhishek Manu Singhvi. With six of its voters resorting to cross voting to help tbe BJP candidate, (a former Congressman), both the candidates in the fray got 34 votes each, leading to a draw and the results declared in favour of the BJP candidate. It is apprehended that the government may go out of power if the BJP introduces a no-confidence motion or if the finance bill fails to get passed in the on-going budget session. If that happens, the Congress Party would be completely wiped out of the north Indian electoral map, not a good thing to happen in the perception battle for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

At a larger level, the Rajya Sabha poll outcomes show that both the BJP and the Congress have practiced politics devoid of principles by wooing the opposition lawmakers to vote for their candidates, which is indeed a sad commentary on our Parliamentary Democracy. Winnability seems to be the only driving factor. Voters, who are the ultimate sovereigns, should realise the imperative need to cleanse the system by deciding to punish the parties for their unethical practices. Is it too much to expect a paradigm shift from crass politics to a modicum of value-based politics

(Author: Dr. P. S. Jayaramu is former Professor of Political Science, Bangalore University and former Senior Fellow, ICSSR, New Delhi)

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