How BJP can overcome the Rajya Sabha challenge

The BJP-NDA now has the numbers in the Lok Sabha to overturn its lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha. The legislative logjam can be broken decisively

R Jagannathan May 16, 2014 21:11:14 IST
How BJP can overcome the Rajya Sabha challenge

The spectacular showing of the NDA, which could end up with 335-340 seats in the Lok Sabha, indicates that Narendra Modi will be able to overcome his legislative hurdle in the Rajya Sabha – both by working with new allies, and by projecting the NDA’s collective might in  a joint sitting of both houses.

The fear so far was not that the BJP won’t win, but that it would not be able to bring in major legislation, or modify some of the UPA’s retrograde laws, because it lacks a majority in the Rajya Sabha. So, even if the BJP can get a law passed in the Lok Sabha, it would flounder in the Rajya Sabha.

How BJP can overcome the Rajya Sabha challenge

A file photo of the Rajya Sabha. AFP

While money bills, like the budget, can be passed by the Lok Sabha even if the Rajya Sabha rejects them, in the case of laws that do not relate to constitutional amendments, the assent of both the houses is mandatory. With the NDA having just 64 members in the Rajya Sabha, the chances of getting any contentious bill passed is zero.

However, there are now two reasons why the BJP can overcome the Rajya Sabha hurdle – if it wants to.

First, the decimation of the Congress means that some regional parties can be brought around to support NDA legislation with some kind of bargaining. In the current Rajya Sabha, the BJP has 46 seats, Shiv Sena three, TDP six, ADMK 10, BJD six, SAD three, RPI one, LJP 1, INLD 2 and NCP six. Then there are a whole range of single-MP parties and independents. Together they add up to quite a few floating numbers.

The implacable anti-BJP numbers are Congress (68), Left (11), RJD (1), BSP (14), DMK (4) and SP (9). But that’s just 107 seats in a house of 250, including 12 nominated members. Clearly, by offering party-specific deals and effective floor coordination, the BJP can clearly get the required numbers in the Rajya Sabha if it really wants one.

Second, the sweeping victory in the Lok Sabha for the NDA – where it could get 335-340 seats - will give it a majority in case the Rajya Sabha rejects any law, and a joint session of parliament has to be called to break the logjam.

Under article 118 of the constitution, the president can call a joint session of both the houses to pass any bill that is not a constitutional amendment bill. This means bills like the Food Security Bill, the Land Acquisition Bill, or other such UPA rights legislations can be overturned or amended – assuming this is something the BJP wants to do.

In a joint sitting, the total number of members (LS plus RS) would be 795 – 545 from the Lok Sabha, including two nominated members, and 250 Rajya Sabha members in its full strength, including 12 nominated ones.

With 340 seats in the Lok Sabha, the BJP needs only 60 votes from the Rajya Sabha in a joint setting.

The BJP has effectively broken the Rajya Sabha jinx that has bedeviled the Congress and other governments before it.

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