For the first time in history, the Indian National Congress (INC) has been unseated as the largest party in the Rajya Sabha (RS). The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) replaced the INC as the largest party, ending the Grand Old Party’s 65-year-long reign in the Upper House.
The change occurred after the election of Sampathiya Uikey, the BJP’s new lawmaker from Madhya Pradesh.
However, the BJP is still short of a clear majority in the 245-seat House.
The BJP has a majority in the Lok Sabha, a majority that is bolstered when its alliance, the National Democratic Alliance, is factored in. However, it has struggled to trump the INC in the Upper House since 2014, which was when the Modi government took office.
The lack of a majority in the Rajya Sabha has stalled or lengthened several legislations and reforms of the BJP. Commentators say now that it is the largest party in both Houses of Parliament, the Prime Minister will be able to push through legislation more quickly.
RS elections for nine seats next week
The INC was slated to have remained the largest party in the Rajya Sabha until at least 2018; however, its numbers depleted after the death of two of its members.
Uikey, now the RS member from MP, was elected unopposed in a by-election for the RS seat formerly held by Union Minister Anil Madhav Dave, who died in May this year.
On Tuesday, 8 August, elections will be held for nine RS seats. Six of these seats are in West Bengal while the rest are in Gujarat. However, this election is not expected to alter the BJP’s lead.
BJP’s lead to increase next year
With its recent alliance with the JD-U in Bihar and its majority in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly, the BJP is expected to increase its lead in the Upper House by next year when the party could win as many as eight of the nine RS seats to be vacated from UP.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is also Defence Minister and Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha, said the BJP becoming the largest party is a “natural consequence of our support base increasing”.
“We are in power in most states and since the Rajya Sabha is a council of the states, the strength of the BJP has to be reflected,” he was reported by NDTV as saying.
The minister was confident that his party’s “base will increase in every election”.