The Tribune

BIENNIAL elections for 55 Rajya Sabha seats from 13 states and the by-election for one seat from Rajasthan were fiercely contested. Compared with their colleagues in the Lok Sabha, those in the House of Elders are considered different in style and substance. But the manner in which political parties conducted themselves in the Rajya Sabha elections this time leaves much to be desired. According to the National Election Watch (NEW), despite most leaders’ concern about the increasing influence of crime and money in the elections, the trend continued in the Rajya Sabha polls too. Even for this House, where elections are indirect and a candidate does not have to go to the public, political parties have nominated candidates with criminal antecedents and high asset value. In all, 15 elected MPs have criminal records and 80 per cent of the new members are crorepatis, according to a NEW survey.

The BJP has suspended three of its MLAs from Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar for cross-voting or abstention in the elections. In Rajasthan, it has urged the Election Commission to disqualify 17 Congress MLAs on the ground that they had defied their party whip and voted for BJP candidates. However, the BJP’s own conduct in Rajasthan was questionable. As many as 79 of its MLAs were herded into a resort near Jaipur over fears that cross-voting could harm its candidate, Mr Ram Jethmalani’s prospects. Hijacking of MLAs to prevent poaching, restricted so far during confidence vote in the states, has now been extended to the Rajya Sabha elections. Mr Jethmalani has won the election. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya from Karnataka entered the fray with the backing of 27 JD (S) MLAs and an Independent. He won after the BJP transferred all its 120 second preference votes. Similarly, Alchemist Chairman, K.D. Singh, who hails from Chandigarh, got elected from Jharkhand.

The Rajya Sabha is a legislative chamber of elders to examine and revise legislation; to project and safeguard the states’ interests; and to deliberate on issues where greater and diverse experience is brought to bear. It can play its mandated role only if all members do their homework and participate in parliamentary work. Sadly, serious debate on burning issues has become a casualty in Parliament because of the members’ excessive indulgence in politics. This kind of attitude will have to change for the better.

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