RS polls: High-stakes for major players

Greater Kashmir

‘Dicey’ situation for PDP, BJP as polls coincide with talks on government formation

Srinagar, Jan 19: The upcoming Rajya Sabha polls to four seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be a litmus test for major political forces given the ongoing impasse over government formation in the state.
According to political observers, the polls have put both the Peoples Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party in a tight-spot given the announcement of the poll schedule coincides with the talks going on between the two over the government formation.
“The situation is dicey for both the parties. Even as they are yet to shape up terms of a possible tie-up, any tactical understanding for the RS polls between them can backfire for the PDP in Kashmir as is yet to convince its constituency on such a deal,” they added.
On the other hand, in case the PDP and BJP choose to go separately, it will not only damage their poll prospects to an extent but can also sabotage their ongoing parleys over government formation, said a political commentator.
The Assembly poll results announced on December 23 saw PDP emerging as single largest party with 28 seats followed by BJP’s 25 seats. The National Conference and Congress which ruled the state for the past six years bagged 15 and 12 seats respectively.
Others bagged seven including two by Sajjad Lone’s Peoples Conference.
After 17 days of stalemate over government formation, the State came under Governor’s Rule on January 8.
On January 12, the Election Commission of India announced schedule for the Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant between February 10 to 15.
According to Election Commission of India, there will be three separate elections to four seats of the State—the electoral college for which comprises 87 newly-elected legislators. The members will be able to cast their votes three times.
This implies that all 87 members will vote for the first and second seat separately and whosoever gets the highest number of votes among candidates in fray (for these two seats), would be declared the winner.
But for the third and four seats, there will be only one election.
For instance, if PDP+BJP+others have 59 MLAs, they can divide their votes among candidates supported by them to ensure their victory on both the seats.
If one candidate polls 30 and other 29, they would emerge as winner on both the seats. The other candidate, if any, cannot get more than 28 votes.

If the PDP-BJP cobble up an alliance or have some sort of a tacit understanding on RS polls, they can easily win three seats. But the combine could lose the fourth seat in case Congress, NC and three independents (15+12+3=30) join hands. In case of NC and Congress contesting separately, the PDP-BJP could win the fourth seat comfortably.

The grand alliance (PDP+NC+Congress+four independents)—if it shapes up—could sweep the polls, making the Bharatiya Janta Party draw blank.

If all the political parties decide to fight separately, the outcome can be full of surprises.
In this precarious situation, the prospects of PDP and BJP will be more dependent on seven MLAs of smaller parties and independents.