BJP woos rival members to boost its RS numbers


New Delhi: The BJP is in an overdrive to get the better of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, winning over members of rival parties in the last few weeks to boost its numbers in the Upper House.

Four of the six Telugu Desam Party MPs in the Rajya Sabha recently joined the BJP. One Samajwadi Party member, Neeraj Shekhar from Uttar Pradesh, quit his seat to join the saffron party, which is certain to win the election to fill the vacancy due to its massive majority in the state assembly.

Speculation has been rife that more opposition MPs can switch over to the BJP.

Neeraj Shekhar, son of former prime minister Chandra Shekhar, told PTI that several SP leaders would like to join the BJP if approached.

He, however, said it is due to “disaffection” among SP leaders with party president Akhilesh Yadav’s leadership.

“They are upset with the leadership. If senior people of the BJP talk to them, I am sure many of them will like to switch over,” he said, asserting that it is the issues he faced in the SP that resulted in his change of heart and not boosting BJP numbers.

The Lok Sabha poll results also gave the message that there is no alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he added.

The BJP’s tally in the 245-member Rajya Sabha has reached 78.

The ruling NDA was expected to get a majority on its own later next year but it now appears that it may cross the halfway mark earlier.

BJP sources said numbers are currently aligned in such a way that the NDA can hope to get the better of opposition if fence-sitters like the BJD, YSR CP, and the TRS back it, but the ruling alliance is far from comfortably placed.

Moreover, some BJP allies like JD(U) may not back it on the contentious triple talaq bill and citizenship (amendment) bill, two legislations close to the saffron party’s ideological agenda.

It has led the BJP to vigorously push efforts to boost its numbers in the House. Top BJP leaders, including the prime minister, also sought support of Odisha Chief Minister and BJD pesident Naveen Patnaik to bag one of the three Rajya Sabha seats from the state.

A BJP leader said it is as much about boosting their numbers as chipping away the numbers of parties which have been stridently against the ruling dispensation’s agenda in the House.

There are several parties which are not part of the BJP-led NDA but can be relied upon for extending issue-based support to it, he said, referring to likes of the YSR Congress, which is in power in Andhra Pradesh, and the BJD.

Parties like TDP and SP are not in a position to get their candidates elected to the Rajya Sabha if a vacancy is caused by the resignation of their MPs.

The Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP lost badly to the YSRCP in the recent Andhra Pradesh assembly polls. In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has more than 300 seats in the 404-member assembly.