The upcoming Rajya Sabha elections for four vacant seats of J&K have unfolded the future political alliances including the first ever contrasting one. Shah Abbas analysis how the new grouping is going to act for New Delhi and Srinagar
Whatever the results, the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections for four seats meant for Jammu and Kashmir have divulged the new alliances in J&K power politics, at least a fortnight in advance.
The long suspense on PDP-BJP coalition was factually over when the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) nominated its two candidates for the Rajya Sabha elections leaving another two for its possible ally Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).
The emerged power political situation clearly exhibits that the PDP is going to lead the new state government in coalition with the Hindu nationalists for the first time and the relation of ‘Hand’ and ‘Plough’ is to go on, at least up to the state legislative council elections.
The elections for the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections are scheduled on February 7 while as the election for 8 council seats will follow in March-April or after a formal government takes over in the state. The state is under governor’s rule since January 8, who has kept the state legislature under suspension.
The renewed NC-Congress alliance, which happened after Congress President Sonia Gandhi personally jumped in to save the political career of her most loyal person in the state: former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who is likely to retain his Rajya Sabha berth.
To fill the vacancies of Mohammad Shafi Uri and Ghulam Nabi Rattanpuri, election is to be held for two seats at one time. Those in fray are Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Chander Mohan Sharma (BJP) and Nazir Ahmad Laway (PDP).
Azad has 27 votes (12 of Congress and 15 of NC) in his pocket and would require three more to achieve the winning numbers.
He has already been in Jammu to “arrange” the requisite numbers. Sources said that Azad visited the residences of Yousuf Tarigami and Hakeem Yasin. He is also trying to convince MLA Langate Er Rashid and if everything went according to Congress’ plan, Azad is safe to land in the upper house.
Rajya Sabha election is perhaps the only dance played on the tunes of democracy which permits horse trading, so political parties are certain to strike a deal to get past the line. Hence who “helps” anybody in the Rajya Sabha elections is surely to be “benefited” in the coming State Legislative Council elections and nomination of 15 seats.
After the newly emerged political power alliances the numbers look like this: BJP-PDP will have 53 votes and if Sajad Lone also joins in they will have 55 votes. NC-Congress will have 27 votes and have to prevail upon five others to get its bit of the cake.
There are seven candidates in fray, Abdul Rashid Mir and Nazir Ahmad Laway of PDP, Shamsheer Singh Manhas and Chander Mohan Sharma of BJP, Nasir Aslam Wani and Sajad Ahmad Kichloo of NC and Ghulam Nabi Azad of Congress.
State assembly with 87 members forms the electoral college of the four Rajya Sabha seats meant for J&K and every electors will have to vote thrice – twice for one candidate each and once for two of the one candidate.
Though the recently elected MLAs are yet to be sworn in, however, the Supreme Court has held that the MLAs, once elected, can vote for electing the members of the Council of the States, even when they have not taken oath formally.
The modus operandi of the Rajya Sabha elections is interesting and a bit complicated too. The number of elections is based on the number of notifications that Election Commission has issued. It has issued one notification each for the berths fell vacant with the expiry of the term of Prof Saif ud Din Soz and Ghulam Nabi Azad, both Congressmen. Third notification has been issued for two seats jointly which NC leaders Ghulam Nabi Rattanpuri and Mohammad Shafi Uri held.
Given the fractured verdict of the recently held assembly elections, no party is in a position to claim a victory because nobody has the numbers. PDP has 28 seats, BJP 25, NC 15 and Congress 12. Remaining seven seats are with the ‘free floating electrons’. Two with Peoples Conference, one with CPI (M) and one each with Hakim Yasin, Er Rashid, Pawan Gupta and Syed Mohammad Bakir Rizvi from Zanskar.
To fill the berth left vacant by Soz, there are only two candidates in fray: Fayaz Mir of PDP and Kichloo of NC. The votes required for the winner are 44, so Mir is likely to win with the support of BJP.
For filling the berth left vacant by Congress veteran Azad, there are only two candidates in fray: Nasir of NC and Manhas of BJP. Apparently, BJP’s Manhas is wining with the support of PDP as winning requires 44 votes which Wani cannot garner at all.
Then comes the election of the high profile and tricky seat and it is to replace Uri and Rattanpuri. The election is to be held for two seats at a time. Those in fray are Azad (Congress), Sharma (BJP) and Laway (PDP).
First seat will have to go to either of the two candidates of the BJP-PDP alliance. It depends on the two parties which one they elect first.
BJP-PDP could manage winning second berth as well if they somehow manage the votes of independents and others. While CPI (M) will not help them for obvious reasons, they can manage the remaining four: Rashid, Hakim, Gupta and Rizvi of Zanskar.
Absence of members to reduce the Electoral College is also manageable to reach the 29 level and such “management” is been practised in sensitive issues in the world of parliamentary democracy.
It is not new now that greens and saffron are together in J&K. What is to be seen is who wins two seats, if they lose one of the four.
The term of four Rajya Sabha members is going to end from 10 and 15 February 2015. Azad’s and Soz’s term will end on February 10 and Rattanpuri’s and Uri’s will end on February 15. Given the constitutional requirement, the Election Commission (EC) has to conduct the elections before February 10.
Not only the Rajya Sabha elections, the ECI has to conduct another major democratic exercise thereafter to fill up eight vacancies of the J&K Legislative Council within a couple of months. Seven more vacancies in the Council are to be filled by the Governor on the recommendations of the State Government.
The number of vacant seats in the State Legislative Council will go up to 15 in March-April 2015.
The fifteen members of the Council retiring in March-April include Council Chairman Amrit Malhotra (Congress-Nominated), Deputy Chairman Javed Ahmad Rana (NC), Ajay Sadhotra (NC) Nominated, Ajatshatru Singh (NC), Bashir Ahmad Magray (Congress) Nominated, Aga Sayeed (NC), B R Kundal (Congress), Khalid Nujeeb Suhrawardhy (NC), Nurbo Gyaltsan (Congress), Ravinder Sharma (Congress) Nominated, Rafiq Ahmad Shah (NPP), Ghulam Qadir Pardesi (NC) Nominated, Sheikh Ghulam Rasool (NC) Nominated, Vijay Bakaya (NC) and Syed Asgar Ali (PDP).
Gupta had completed his term on April 1, 2014 and his post is lying vacant since then.
The Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council or the upper house has a total strength of 36. Of them, 22 are elected by the MLAs (11 each from Jammu and Kashmir divisions) with one seat each reserved for Leh, Doda and Poonch. Eight members are nominated by the Governor on the recommendations of the Government.
Four MLCs (two each from Jammu and Kashmir divisions) are elected by the Panchayat members while two MLCs (one each from Jammu and Kashmir divisions) are elected by the members of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).
Elections to ULBs were last held in January 2005 and the ULB members had elected two MLCs few months later. Since the ULB elections were not held despite being due in January 2010, the posts of two MLCs are lying vacant.