The last-minute entry of two media barons in the Rajya Sabha election has set up a contest between the BJP and Congress in at least two states, Rajasthan and Haryana.
Zee group chairman Subhash Chandra, a member of the upper house of parliament, filed his nomination from Rajasthan with the BJP’s endorsement.
The Congress is in a position to win two of the four seats in Rajasthan and the BJP, one.
There will now be a contest for the fourth seat with Subhash Chandra challenging the Congress’s Pramod Tiwari.
The BJP reportedly wants to tap into the resentment simmering in the state’s ruling Congress and the Ashok Gehlot versus Sachin Pilot feud that threatens to explode any time.
The Congress is facing anger over its choice of Rajya Sabha candidates – Randeep Surjewala, Mukul Wasnik and Pramod Tiwari – all from other states and seen as “outsiders” by local MLAs.
The BJP’s candidate is Ghanshyam Tiwari, a former minister of the Vasundhara Raje cabinet.
In the 200-member Rajasthan assembly, each candidate needs 41 votes to win.
The Congress has 108 MLAs and the BJP has 71 votes. The BJP has 30 surplus votes and to win a second seat, it needs another 11. The Congress, to win a third seat, needs 15 more votes. Smaller parties and independents will, therefore, play a critical role in who wins the seat.
There are 13 independents, two Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) members, two of the Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP) and two CPM MLAs, who may be the deciding factor.
In BJP-ruled Haryana, the Congress will face a tough fight over one seat.
Kartikeya Sharma, the managing director of ITV Network, is set to contest the Rajya Sabha elections from Haryana. His entry may queer the pitch for Congress’s Ajay Maken.
Kartikeya Sharma is the son of former Congress leader Venod Sharma and the son-in-law of former Haryana Speaker Kuldeep Sharma. He has the support of the BJP as well as the JJP (Jannayak Janata Party). JJP leader Ajay Singh Chautala said all 10 MLAs of the party will support Kartikeya Sharma.
Any party needs 31 votes to win a seat. The Congress has 31. The BJP has nine surplus votes that it can transfer to Mr Sharma.
Though Congress leader Ajay Maken is in a strong position, on paper, factors that could impact him include sulking Congress leader Kuldeep Bishnoi; reports suggest the BJP may reach out to Mr Bishnoi.
In Maharashtra, which has six seats, a tweet by Congress leader Nagma A Morarji on her 18-year wait for a Rajya Sabha opportunity sparked buzz about ‘local vs outsider’ friction in the party. The Congress is sending Uttar Pradesh leader Imran Pratapgarhi to the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra for the sixth seat.
Nagma tweeted that Sonia Gandhi “personally” promised she would be accommodated in the Rajya Sabha in 2003-04. “…Mr Imran is accommodated in RS (Rajya Sabha) from Maharashtra. I ask, am I less deserving?” Nagma tweeted. She later congratulated Mr Pratapgarhi, indicating her support.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance of Shiv Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) says they have the numbers to win three out of six seats, who are to be elected by 288 members of the state assembly. The BJP can win two on its own, which leaves the contest wide open for the sixth seat.