Daily News Analysis » Elections to The Rajya Sabha

Elections to The Rajya Sabha

Why in the News?

Recently, the Assemblies of 4 states elected 16 Members of Parliament (MPs) to Rajya Sabha.

Key Points:

About Rajya Sabha Polls:

  • A third of Members of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, from each State retire once in two years and polls are held to fill up the vacancies
  • In addition, vacancies that arise due to resignation, death or disqualification are filled up through by-polls after which those elected serve out the remainder of their predecessor’s term
  • Only elected members of the State Legislative Assemblies can vote in a Rajya Sabha election
  • The Rajyasabha MPs have a six-year term
  • Voting is by single transferable vote, as the election is held on the principle of proportional representation

Proposers Mechanism

  • Candidates fielded by political parties have to be proposed by at least 10 members of the Assembly or 10% of the party’s strength in the House, whichever is less
  • For independents, there should be 10 proposers, all of whom should be members of the Assembly

What is Single Transferable Vote?

  1. A Single Transferable Vote means electors can vote for any number of candidates in order of their preference. 
  2. A candidate requires a specified number of first preference votes to win. Each first choice vote has a value of 100 in the first round. 
  3. To qualify, a candidate needs one point more than the quotient obtained by dividing the total value of the number of seats for which elections are taking place plus one. 
  4. For Example, if there are four seats and 180 MLAs voting, the qualifying number will be 180/5= 36 votes or a value of 3,600. 
  5. Normally, the results are clear after one round itself. The extra candidate is eliminated for want of enough first preference votes.
  6. However, counting may go to the second round, if more than one candidate fails to get the specified number. 
  7. In such a situation, the second preference polled by the candidates (in ballots where the first preference has gone to those already qualified) will be transferred to their kitty, but with a diminished value. 
  8. The total value of the votes polled by the remaining candidates both as first and subsequent preferences would be used to decide the winner.

‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) Option in Rajya Sabha Polls: 

  • In 2018, the Supreme Court of India scrapped the ‘none of the above’ option provision to Rajya Sabha Polls
  • It stated that the ‘none of the above’ option is only for general elections held on the basis of universal adult suffrage, and cannot be applied to indirect elections based on proportional representation

Voting Eligibility:

  • The Supreme Court has ruled that a member can vote in a Rajya Sabha election even before taking an oath as legislator
  • It ruled that voting at the Rajya Sabha polls, being a non-legislative activity, can be performed without taking oath

Why don’t the Rajya Sabha polls have a secret ballot?

  1. The Rajya Sabha polls have a system of open ballot, but it is a limited form of openness. 
  2. As a measure to check rampant cross-voting, which was taken to mean that the vote had been purchased by corrupt means, the system of each party MLA showing his or her marked ballots to the party’s authorised agent, before they are put into the ballot box, has been introduced.
  3. Showing a marked ballot to anyone other than one’s own party’s authorised agent will render the vote invalid. 
  4. Not showing the ballot to the authorised agent will also mean that the vote cannot be counted. and independent candidates are barred from showing their ballots to anyone.

Does cross-voting in Rajya Sabha Polls attract disqualification?

  1. The cross-voting in Rajya Sabha Polls does not attract disqualification.
  2. The Supreme Court, while declining to interfere with the open ballot system, ruled that not voting for the party candidate will not attract disqualification under the anti-defection law. 
  3. As voters, MLAs retain their freedom to vote for a candidate of their choice. 
  4. However, the Court observed that since the party would know who voted against its own candidate, it is free to take disciplinary action against the legislator concerned.

Composition of Rajya Sabha:

  • The Rajya Sabha (first constituted in 1952) is a continuing chamber, that is, it is a permanent body and not subject to dissolution
  • The Constitution has not fixed the term of office of members of the Rajya Sabha and left it to the Parliament
  • The maximum strength of the Rajya Sabha is fixed at 250, out of which, 238 are to be the representatives of the states and union territories (elected indirectly) and 12 are nominated by the president
  • At present, the Rajya Sabha has 245 members
  • The Fourth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the allocation of seats in the Rajya Sabha to the states and union territories
  • The retiring members are eligible for re-election and renomination any number of times
  • The presiding officer of the Rajya Sabha is known as the Chairman
  • The Vice-President of India is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha