Context: Elections to 19 Rajya Sabha seats spread over nine States to be held soon.
More on the news:
- MLAs who have been hospitalised with COVID-19 will be allowed to vote by postal ballot, according to Election Commission of India.
Source: The Hindu
About Rajya Sabha:
The Council of States shall consist of
(a) twelve members to be nominated by the President in accordance with the provisions of clause (3) and
(b) not more than two hundred and thirty eight representatives of the States and of the Union territories.
The members to be nominated by the President under sub clause (a) of clause ( 1 ) shall consist of persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following, namely: Literature, science, art and social service.
- The Rajya Sabha, i.e, the Council of States, is the Upper House of the Union Parliament.
- The present strength of Rajya Sabha: 245, out of which 233 are representatives of the States and Union territories of Delhi and Puducherry and 12 are nominated by the President.
- The Fourth Schedule to the Constitution provides for allocation of seats to the States and Union Territories in Rajya Sabha.
- The allocation of seats is made on the basis of the population of each State due to which U.P has 31 seats while Assam has 7.
- Qualifications: Article 84 of the Constitution lays down the qualifications for membership of Parliament. A person to be qualified for the membership of the Rajya Sabha should posses the following qualifications:
- he must be a citizen of India and make and subscribe before some person authorized in that behalf by the Election Commission an oath or affirmation according to the form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule to the Constitution;
- he must be not less than 30 years of age;
- he must possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.
- Elections to Rajya Sabha - The representatives of the States and of the Union Territories in the Rajya Sabha are elected by the method of indirect election.
- The representatives of each State and two Union territories are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of that State and by the members of the Electoral College for that Union Territory, as the case may be.
- The elections are in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote (NO SECRET BALLOT as in case of President and Vice President Election).
Formula of Rajya Sabha Election
To win a Rajya Sabha seat, a candidate should get a required number of votes. That number is found using the below formula.
Required Number = Total number of votes divided by (Number of Rajya Sabha seats + 1 ) + 1.
Example - Suppose a state with 100 member legislative assembly is required to elect 3 Rajya Sabha members.
Then the number to win a R.S seat = 100/(3+1) +1 i.e 25+1 = 26.
So if the minority party in the assembly has won 26 seats then 1 R.S member can be elected by them.
Note: Members don’t vote for each seat. If that would have been the case then only the ruling party representatives would make it through. Here members give preferences for each candidate (as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6). If 26 or more members choose a candidate as their first choice,then he gets elected.
- Rajya Sabha is a permanent House and is not subject to dissolution.
- However, one-third Members of Rajya Sabha retire after every second year. A member who is elected for a full term serves for a period of six years.
- The election held to fill a vacancy arising otherwise than by retirement of a member on the expiration of his term of office is called ‘Bye-election’.
- A member elected in a bye-election remains a member for the remainder of the term of the member who has resigned or died or disqualified to be member of the House under the Tenth Schedule.
Why Single transferable vote?
During the making of the Constitution, Constituent Assembly members suggested that voting in these elections should take place using a single transferable vote.
- Ranking all candidates: In this method, a voter instead of voting for a single candidate, ranks all candidates according to his preference.
- Voting only takes place when there are more candidates than the vacant seats.
- Representation to the opposition: The method would lead to the election of candidates opposed to the majority party in a state.
Cross-voting and introduction of Open ballot:
The rot in the Rajya Sabha elections started becoming evident in the late nineties. During this time, MLAs were regularly convinced to vote against their party’s candidate (cross-vote).
- Open ballot: To stem the rot, a Rajya Sabha committee headed by S B Chavan(1999) mooted the idea of voting by open ballots in the elections to the upper house.
- It thought that the move would prevent big money and other considerations to play mischief with the electoral process.
- The legislature has also not been idle. It has passed a law to secure the sanctity of elections to the upper house.
- As a result, Parliament passed a law in 2003 requiring MLAs to show their votes to their party before voting in a Rajya Sabha election.
- But neither did the law stop the MLAs from cross-voting, nor could it prevent the influence of big money.
- The Supreme Court in 2006 held that the practice of cross-voting would not attract the penalty under the anti-defection law, which further promoted the practice of cross-voting.
- The open ballot provides legal and technical grounds for invalidating votes. For example, in the 2017 Gujarat Rajya Sabha election, votes of two Congress MLAs were held invalid on the suspicion that they voted for the BJP candidate.
Change in dynamics of RS elections:
- Rajya Sabha elections are a dull affair and usually a party’s candidate wins unopposed.
- But the elections to be held in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have been preceded by a lot of drama.
- Getting elected to the Rajya Sabha is no longer the cakewalk it used to be.
- The outcome in these elections depends on the dynamics within a party and external pressure exerted by competing parties.
- Also, Rajya Sabha seats are no longer the exclusive domain of career politicians. Increasingly, wealthy and ambitious individuals are vying for them too.
- Consequently, money and muscle power are playing a more significant role in these elections.
- These events make one thing clear that Politics is competitive, and it’s easy to comply with the letter of the law rather than its spirit.
- And a stricter law will make no difference.
- A lasting solution to probity in Rajya Sabha elections can only come from within political parties.