Poll-humbled Congress, resurgent regional parties could help BJP in RS

pollBy Nirendra Dev, New Delhi, (IANS) As the poll verdict from four states saw the Congress decimated in two states and regional parties reasserting themselves in another two, BJP floor managers in parliament were keeping an eye on the general anti-Congress mood and also on the numbers in the Rajya Sabha, where crucial legislation needs across-the-spectrum support.

“There is a changed scenario. After June biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha, while the Congress strength will come down, there will be enhanced numbers for the likes of the Samajwadi Party and the AIADMK. This can help help government pass key bills in Rajya Sabha,” a BJP source told IANS, exuding confidence.

But, will the Trinamool Congrees (TMC), which was poised to storm back to power in West Bengal with over two-thirds majority vote, play ball?

Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, at her press conference after the contours of her party’s victory emerged, indicated she would.

“For us, our election manifesto is like raksha kawach. We have ideological differences with BJP but if there are matters which will help people, we can cooperate,” Banerjee said in Kolkata when asked about Trinamool’s role in passing the stalled Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, described as one of the government’s most important economic measures.

The TMC, in its manifesto for the 2011 assembly elections and the 2014 parliamentary polls, had promised support for the GST, which the Lok Sabha passed in 2015 but is pending in the Rajya Sabha as the BJP-led NDA lacks the numbers there.

At least one industry lobby thought the BJP could draw comfort from the showing of the TMC, as also of the AIADMK, which convincingly returned to power in Tamil Nadu.

“The NDA Government will certainly find it easier to deal with Trinamool Congress and AIADMK in the Rajya Sabha for passage of crucial bills, mainly the long-pending and the most important GST bill,” Assocham President Sunil Kanoria said.

While AIADMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is yet to react on her party’s cooperation in parliament, her stance against the GST is well known but she also enjoys good personal rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

No sooner had the trends become clear on Thursday, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar asserted that the government was keen to do business with the powerful regional leaders.

“First purpose in any election is to win, secondly it is to ensure defeat of your main rivals and thirdly to feel satisfied that while your enemies like Congress and Left are defeated, the friendly regional parties have won,” Javadekar told journalists.

In the Rajya Sabha biennial elections due on June 11, the BJP hopes to gain from states like Rajasthan and Maharashtra where seats have fallen vacant.

“The assembly polls saw BJP win in Assam and decimation of Congress in crucial states. This growing anti-Congress mood will be reflected in monsoon session of parliament and regional parties like Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress will have to make a clear choice about pushing for legislative measures like the GST bill,” a key BJP leader said.

Of the 57 seats for which elections will be held, the BJP and the Congress each held 14.

But the Congress’ decimation in assembly polls in last two years in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Telangana could result in the party losing at least 4-5 seats.

The Congress strength in Rajya Sabha is now 64 and this could scale down to 60, but it will continue to be the single largest party in the house.

Twenty-five Rajya Sabha seats are up for grabs in states where the BJP or the National Democratic Alliance is in power. Of them, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan account for four each, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Haryana and Jharkhand for two each, Madhya Pradesh for three and Maharashtra for six.

Of these, BJP or its NDA allies can hope to pick up 22 seats, it is estimated.

The present strength of BJP is 49 in the 245-member Rajya Sabha. With NDA allies, its number goes up to 67.

“The Congress’s strength in Rajya Sabha will come down. The BJP’s will increase marginally while regional parties like Samajwadi Party will also benefit. It is these permutations and combinations that had led (Finance Minister) Arun Jaitley to favour voting (against building consensus) in the house on important legislation like the GST bill,” the party source said.

(Nirendra Dev can be contacted at nirendra.n@ians.in)

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