ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ ITDC NEWS With various political parties announcing candidates for elections to 55 Rajya Sabha seats on March 26, the back-room operations have heated up in various states.
Madhya Pradesh has been in the news for the past two weeks, with Jyotiraditya Scindia leaving the Congress after his demand for a Rajya Sabha seat nomination was allegedly overlooked. Following Scindia's resignation from the Congress on March 10, 22 MLAs loyal to him resigned from the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, threatening the survival of the Kamal Nath government. Elections were due to be held to three Rajya Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh.
Now, the Congress could face defections in another state where voting will be held for three Rajya Sabha seats: Assam. On Thursday, Himanta Biswa Sarma—a former minister in the Congress state government
who switched over to the BJP in 2015—was quoted by NDTV as saying at least four Congress MLAs in Assam could join the BJP. Sarma is also a minister in the Assam government, holding portfolios such as finance and health.
The BJP won the 2016 Assembly polls in Assam in alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad and Bodoland People's Front. The three parties won a total of 86 of the 126 Assembly seats, with the BJP winning 60 seats. The Congress, which had ruled Assam for 15 straight years, won just 26 seats. Three Congress MLAs subsequently resigned.
Sarma was quoted by NDTV as saying, "Within a few days, an important MLA of Congress will join the BJP. Some other Congress MLAs will also join soon and more are in touch. We might be able to give more news soon. This is time for election, but these desertions, if it happens, will not be related to Rajya Sabha polls." Ironically, Tarun Gogoi, the Congress strongman who was chief minister of Assam for three straight terms, warned the BJP could indulge in horse-trading ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls.
Given its numbers, the BJP is certain to win two of the three seats. The Congress and All India United Democratic Front, which has 13 MLAs, had announced their support for journalist Ajit Kumar Bhuyan as the candidate for the third Rajya Sabha seat. Ajit Kumar Bhuyan was active in protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December.
Interestingly on Thursday, another journalist, Atanu Bhuyan, collected nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha polls, fuelling speculation the BJP could support him. Sarma was quoted by The Telegraph as saying “... there will be an election (for the third seat) and then we will have to vote him [Atanu Bhuyan]. We cannot vote for an AIUDF candidate".
Sarma was a key leader in the Tarun Gogoi government. After his switch to the BJP, Sarma has been credited with expanding the BJP's presence in the northeast, paving the way for the party to form governments in several states, notably Manipur and Tripura.