Unlike the 545-member Lok Sabha which is dissolved after completing a five-year term, the Rajya Sabha is a continuous house. The fixed term of a Rajya Sabha MP is six years. Roughly one-third of its members retire every two years. In the 245-member house, 12 members are nominated by the president. The rest are elected by state MLAs. Therefore, results of state assembly elections can have extended consequences on the composition of the Rajya Sabha.
Elections to the Rajya Sabha are conducted using the system of single transferable voting that results in (approximately) proportional representation. Each state has a different but fixed number of seats in the house. The members elected represent the entire state and not specific constituencies.
Only elected members of each state assembly are eligible to vote. Every voter gets to cast their vote in a preference order of their choice amongst the candidates contesting for the vacant seats of their state. Each candidate needs a minimum number of votes (quota) to be elected. The votes are transferred from one candidate to another if a candidate gets more votes (surplus) than the quota or a candidate gets so few votes that he has absolutely no chance and therefore the votes nominating him are liable to be wasted.
How will recent state assembly election results in the five states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa affect the composition in the Upper House?
UP has a total of 31 members in the Rajya Sabha, out of whom ten will retire in 2018 and ten in 2020. The newly-elected assembly will vote for these 20 seats. The remaining 11 vacancies opening up in April 2022 will be decided by the next assembly of UP, since the current assembly’s five-year term will be completed by March 2022.
Let us assume that:
- the current assembly will last for the complete five-year term,
- no defections occur,
- all alliances remain same for nominating RS candidates,
- all MLAs vote along party lines and
- the target of all parties is to have maximum representation in the Rajya Sabha.
The electoral college consists of all the elected 403 MLAs. Let the value of each vote be deemed to be 100. Hence, BSP, with 19 MLAs, has 1,900 votes.
The number of votes required to win a seat (quota) can be calculated using the following formula: Quota = [( Total MLAs x value of vote)/( Number of vacancies + 1 )] + 1
= [( 403 x 100 )/(10+1) ] + 1
= (4,030/11) + 1
= 3,664 (fraction vote discounted)
Hence, each candidate (of any party) needs 3,664 votes to be elected.
We now know the number of votes required by each candidate to win and the total number of votes that can be casted by each party. Based on this knowledge, we can predict how many seats each party is assured to win. Each party, after winning this minimum number of assured seats, will have some surplus votes left. These surplus votes are useful for parties to increase their chances of winning an extra seat.
Surplus votes = Total value of votes of a party – (Minimum number of seats assured x quota)
The exclusion principle implies that the candidate with the lowest votes get excluded in every round, with his/her votes being transferred to the next preference marked by the voter. This, eventually, leaves the party with the highest surplus votes winning the extra seat. If all voters do not mark any preference beyond their own alliance candidates, then the NDA, with the highest surplus votes (3,188), will win the tenth seat.
Contest for the tenth seat: Votes needed to win an extra seat = Quota – Surplus votes
The BJP, with its 312 MLAs, has the numbers to win eight seats on its own. The Samajwadi Party, with 4,700 votes, is capable of winning one seat on its own. The tenth seat in both 2018 and 2020 may depend on support from other parties. A party can try to win the seat by allying to get another group’s surplus votes or even by getting another group’s voters’ lower preferences once the voters may have expressed support for their own party candidates as top preferences. For example: The NDA needs 476 more votes to cross the quota. It can do so if it gets the support of all five ‘others’ MLAs.
The UP election results will affect the Rajya Sabha composition in both April 2018 and November 2020. The calculations in the table above remain the same for November 2020, since all parameters, including the number of vacancies, are the same.
The Samajwadi Party, with 224 seats, had the majority in the March 2012-17 Uttar Pradesh assembly. During that five-year term, all 31 seats opened up for re-elections and the Samajwadi Party was able to win majority of these seats – six out of ten in 2012, six out of ten in 2014 and six out of 11 in April 2016. However, this new assembly will get to vote for only the 20 seats that will open up in their five-year term till March 2022. This variation is bound to happen since the Rajya Sabha term is fixed at six years while the term of the assembly is five years or less (if it is dissolved earlier).
Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Punjab
The same method can be used to determine the picture for the other four states. The table below depicts how the representation of these states in Rajya Sabha will be affected.
The sitting INC member whose term was scheduled to finish in 2020 passed away last month. His vacancy will be filled by the new ruling NDA alliance’s candidate whenever by-polls are conducted this year. Since the term of every Rajya Sabha seat is fixed at six years, this seat will still reopen in 2020 and will be won by the ruling NDA alliance again.
Note: Manohar Parrikar (elected in November 2014 from UP) will have to resign from the Rajya Sabha within the next six months. To continue to occupy the position of the chief minister of Goa, he has to become an MLA from Goa assembly within the next six months and will have to resign within 14 days of his election. His Rajya Sabha seat will, however, be retained by the BJP in the by-polls due to its majority in the new UP assembly. Note that the member elected to fill the vacancy will be due for election again in November 2020 since the term of a Rajya Sabha seat is fixed at six years. Hence, no calculations in the above article will be affected.
Vibhor Relhan manages engagement with state legislators at PRS Legislative Research.