Come February 7, the biennial polls to Rajya Sabha will pave the way for many new faces in the upper house of Parliament. From a district women’s wing secretary of a political party to a painter, journalists, advocates and actors, 55 members will enter the precincts of the Council of States, along with veteran politicians, to create a balance in the composition of the House of Elders.
Maratha strongman and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and three-time Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit will enter the Rajya Sabha for the first time. Congress leaders such as Motilal Vora (85); Rishang Keishing (93), the first Lok Sabha member from Manipur; and party veteran Murli Deora will continue to be members of the Rajya Sabha.
The terms of 55 members of Rajya Sabha are ending in April. To fill up the vacancies, biennial elections are being held on February 7. Interestingly, despite the polls, whoever forms the next government at the Centre would not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha—with the BJP and Congress unlikely to increase their tally, regional parties would walk away with most of the seats.
For the six seats from Tamil Nadu that would go to polls, ruling AIADMK has fielded all new faces for the four seats it could win —S Muthukrishnan (Tirunelveli city district secretary), L Sasikala Pushpa (party's women's wing secretary ), Vijila Sathyanand (party's Tirunelveli city district women's wing secretary) and former minister A K Selvaraj.
Of six seats in West Bengal, ruling Trinamool Congress has fielded three new faces and renominated industrialist K D Singh. The party has fielded Bollywood star Mithun Chakraborty. painter Jogen Chowdhury and editor of a Kolkata daily Ahmad Hassan making the contest critical for the sixth seat. CPI(M), which is fast losing its strength in the Rajya Sabha, has fielded SFI general secretary Ritabrata Banerjee as Left Front candidate for the fifth seat. However, CPI(M) and Congress have come together to sponsor academician Hossainnur Rahman as an independent candidate for the sixth seat.
In Bihar, JD(U) has fielded all new faces for three seats—Ramnath Thakur, son of former Chief Minister and socialist leader Karpoori Thakur; Praveen, former Mayor of Bhagalpur, and Harivansh, the editor-in-chief of a Hindi daily.
In Maharashtra, NCP has fielded advocate Majid Memon, besides Pawar for the two seats it could win. Congress is set to renominate Deora and the second seat is to be decided between Mohan Prakash and retiring member Husain Umar Dalwai. BJP and Shiv Sena will get one seat each and Shiv Sena had already renominated retiring member Rajkumar Dhoot. Election to seventh seat seems to have become critical.
BJP is not lagging behind in sending new faces to Rajya Sabha. It has fielded business tycoon R K Sinha from Bihar; Dalit leader and seven-time Lok Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh, Dr Satyanarayan Jatiya, is all set to enter the upper house for the first time. Jatiya was a Cabinet minister in the NDA government.
From Rajasthan, the BJP dropped two of its retiring members Prakash Mathur and Gyan Prakash Pilania, and instead gave tickets to party leaders Ram Narayan Dudi and Narayan Panchariya.
Rajya Sabha elections are always handy for the political parties to rehabilitate their leaders. From Delhi, both the BJP and Congress are trying to accommodate their leaders in the upper house. While the BJP has fielded Delhi party chief Vijay Goel from Rajasthan, the Congress is trying to accommodate Dikshit either from Himachal Pradesh or Jharkhand.
BJP is yet to declare names of candidates for three vacant seats in Gujarat, one each in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. The names of former member SS Ahluwalia and party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman are doing the rounds for these seats. BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, whose term also ends, may also be fielded.
In Odisha, the ruling BJD is also fielding all new faces this time. Of the four seats, BJD can win three and has sponsored noted architect and sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra for the fourth seat. Though the party is still to announce list of candidates, new names such as Kalpataru Das, Western Odisha Development Council chairperson Padmini Sekhar Deo and N Bhaskar Rao have reportedly been selected by BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
The most interesting elections for Rajya Sabha will, however, be in volatile Andhra Pradesh wherein the ruling Congress is facing a serious rebellion in the wake of separate Telangana Bill. Of the six seats, Congress—going by the strength—will get three and TDP two. The party has offered the sixth seat to TRS and is likely to renominate retiring members KVP Ramachander Rao, Ratna Bai and MA Khan.