BJP-JD(S) combine challenges Congress to a war of nerves in Karnataka Rajya Sabha elections

Strength in the Assembly suggests Congress can win three out of four seats but BJP-JD(S) combine has fielded a fifth.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Feb 16, 2024 | 4:00 PMUpdatedFeb 16, 2024 | 4:00 PM

Congress' nominee former Union minister Ajay Maken filed papers for the Rajya Sabha polls at Bengaluru on Thursday. (Supplied)

An 11th-hour fifth candidate for four Rajya Sabha vacancies in Karnataka forces an election on Friday, 16 February, opening up the possibility of cross or conscience voting.

The ruling Congress walks on a razor’s edge to ensure all 135 MLAs vote for the three party candidates. Given that a candidate has to secure 45 votes for victory,  the party cannot afford to lose even one vote.

Having fielded businessman and former Rajya Sabha member D Kupendra Reddy as the JDS candidate, the BJP-JDS combine threw the gauntlet by saying it is confident of getting ‘”surplus” votes.

An unsettled Congress came up with a gamely response, saying it was sure of “conscience” votes as well.

The fifth candidate from the BJP-JD(S) camp was definitely a surprise on Thursday, 15 February, which has forced a contest for the Rajya Sabha biennial election slated for 27 February.

Karnataka has four Rajya Sabha vacancies, and going by their strength in the state Assembly, the ruling Congress is poised to win three seats, leaving one to the BJP-JD(S) combine.

Besides the five party-backed candidates, two Independents are also in the fray.

With the JD(S) fielding D Kupendra Reddy, a former Rajya Sabha member and businessman, as the fifth candidate, the stage is set for a high-stakes battle as each candidate vies for the crucial support of 45 votes needed to emerge victorious.

The Congress has 135 members in the Assembly, followed by the BJP with 66 seats, JD(S) has 19 seats, one each for Sarvodaya Karnataka Party (SKP) and Kalyana Rajya Pragathi Party (KRPP), and two Independents.

Also Read: How the numbers stack up for four Rajya Sabha seats from Karnataka

Scrutiny on Friday

Congress’s incumbent Rajya Sabha members Dr Syeed Naseer Hussain, who is also the in-charge of the AICC chief’s office, and GC Chandrashekar, and AICC treasurer and former Union minister Ajay Maken filed nominations in the presence of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister and KPCC chief DK Shivakumar on Thursday, the last day for filing nominations.

NDA alliance candidates former MLC Narayan K Bandage and Kupendra Reddy also filed papers on Thursday.

“Three Congress leaders and one each BJP and JD(S) members and two Independents have filed the nomination papers. The scrutiny of nomination papers will take place on 16 February. The final list of candidates will be announced the same day itself,” Assembly Secretary MK Vishalakshi said.

Also Read: JD(S), Congress in war of nerves as calm BJP eyes Rajya Sabha wins

Banking on surplus votes

The JD(S) decided to field Kupendra Reddy after holding talks with the BJP’s central leaders. JD(S) has 19 seats and is backed by the surplus BJP votes.

Besides JD(S) state chief HD Kumaraswamy, BJP state president BY Vijayendra and other leaders from both parties accompanied Kupendra Reddy.

“A joint decision has been being taken in Karnataka. The BJP central leaders and JD(S) leaders held talks last night and decided to field D Kupendra Reddy as the fifth candidate,” Vijayendra told reporters.

“The JD(S) has its strategies. In the coming days, the BJP and JD(S) will jointly chalk out strategies to ensure the victory of our candidates,” he exuded confidence.

JD(S) senior leader Bandeppa Kashempur said the party’s strategy would be revealed when the results are announced.

“We agree that we don’t have sufficient numbers. Since the party is in alliance with the BJP, we will get their surplus votes. We are confident that both the alliance candidates will emerge victorious,” he told South First.

Also Read: Three Karnataka MPs spoke nothing in 17th Lok Sabha

Congress eyes ‘conscience’ votes

Meanwhile, Shivakumar asserted that the Congress party will win ‘conscience votes’ from the JD(S) and BJP in the forthcoming Rajya Sabha elections, signalling a strategic move amidst heightened political actions.

“We too have friends across parties. Our candidates will also get conscience votes in Rajya Sabha elections,” the KPCC chief expressed confidence in securing support from unexpected quarters.

“The BJP and the JD(S) have always indulged in horse trading,” Shivakumar said.

“The JD(S) thinks that the BJP will support it, but wait and watch till February 27 and you will know how many votes it gets from the BJP,” he said.

When asked about the expected “conscience votes”, he said. “I will comment after the polls.”

“The people of the state have supported the Congress party led by Mallikarjuna Kharge. We are confident that our candidates will raise their voice for the state in the Upper House,” he said.

On the party fielding Ajay Maken from Karnataka, Shivakumar recommended asking the JD(S) and the BJP that had fielded outsiders in the past. “Ajay Maken’s family has sacrificed a lot for the unity, peace, and integrity of the country. He has worked to build the party from his student days and we are happy to elect him from here,” Shivakumar said.

Also Read: ‘Cong offered Rajya Sabha seat from Karnataka,’ says YS Sharmila

Calculating the votes

“The quota of votes to win a Rajya Sabha seat will be fixed based on the number of valid votes divided by the number of seats to be filled, plus one,” Vishalakshi said.

“The quotient will be added again with one and the fractions are ignored. As per the formula, a political party needs 45 votes to win a Rajya Sabha seat,” she explained.

Detailing the poll procedure, Vishalakshi told South First that a candidate has to get 45 votes to win the poll. “The candidate will be elected based on the preferential votes. Preferential votes come into play if there are more than four contestants,” she added.

On the value of second preference vote, she said, “As it is a single transferable vote, we consider only second preference votes. The value of the second preference vote changes. The value will be fixed only at the time of counting.”

“If the first three candidates get the fixed total value of votes then the fight will be between the fourth and fifth candidates for the fourth seat. In this scenario, the elimination process will be carried out.”

“The person who gets the least number of votes will be eliminated. Even if the candidate grosses the highest votes but fails to get the fixed total value of votes then he will be declared victorious as per the poll procedure,” Vishalakshi explained.