Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Rajya Sabha seats go to polls in February


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rajya Sabha Elections

Mains level : NA


  • The Election Commission notified elections to 56 Rajya Sabha seats that will be held on February 27.

Uniqueness of Rajya Sabha Elections

  • Retirement Cycle: One-third of Rajya Sabha members from each State retire every two years, necessitating elections to fill vacancies.
  • Eligible Voters: Only elected members of State Legislative Assemblies are eligible to vote in Rajya Sabha elections.
  • Six-Year Term: Newly elected members serve a six-year term, with vacancies arising due to resignation, death, or disqualification filled through by-polls.

Election of Rajya Sabha Members

  • Blocs and Elections: A group of MPs from one or more parties can elect a member if they possess the required numbers.
  • Avoiding Majority Rule: This approach ensures that ruling party candidates do not monopolize elections.
  • Union Territories Representation: Delhi and Puducherry Assemblies elect members to Rajya Sabha to represent the respective Union Territories.

Electoral Process

  • Polling Condition: A Rajya Sabha election requires polling only when the number of candidates surpasses the available vacancies.
  • Predictable Strength: Parties estimate their potential seats based on their strength in the Assembly.
  • Contesting Candidates: Parties field candidates based on their strength; additional candidates trigger a contest.
  • Candidate Nomination: Political party candidates must be proposed by at least 10 Assembly members or 10% of the party’s House strength, whichever is lower.
  • Independent Candidates: Independents require 10 proposers, all Assembly members.

Voting Procedure

  • Single Transferable Vote: Rajya Sabha elections employ the single transferable vote system, based on proportional representation.
  • Preferences Voting: Electors can vote for multiple candidates in order of preference.
  • Winning Requirement: Candidates need a specific number of first preference votes to win, with each first choice vote valued at 100 in the initial round.
  • Qualification: To qualify, a candidate must secure one point more than the quotient obtained by dividing the total value of seats available in the election plus one.

Transparency in RS Elections

  • Open Ballot System: Rajya Sabha elections employ an open ballot system with limited transparency.
  • Preventing Cross-Voting: Showing marked ballots to the party’s authorized agent (Whip) is mandatory; not following this rule renders the vote invalid.
  • Secrecy for Independents: Independent candidates are prohibited from showing their ballots to anyone.
  • NOTA in Rajya Sabha: Initially, Rajya Sabha members had the option to use the NOTA (None of the Above) button during elections, as per circulars issued by the Election Commission.
  • Supreme Court Ruling: However, in 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that NOTA is only applicable in general elections and cannot be used in indirect elections based on proportional representation.

Consequences of Cross-Voting

  • Supreme Court’s Stand: The Supreme Court clarified that not voting for the party candidate in Rajya Sabha elections does not trigger disqualification under the anti-defection law.
  • Legislators’ Freedom: MLAs retain the freedom to vote for a candidate of their choice.
  • Party Action: Parties are free to take disciplinary action against legislators who vote against their candidate.

Voting Eligibility before Taking Oath

  • Voting Without Oath: The Supreme Court ruled that members can participate in Rajya Sabha elections even before taking the oath as legislators.
  • Non-Legislative Activity: Rajya Sabha voting is considered a non-legislative activity, allowing members to vote without taking the oath.
  • Membership Status: A person becomes a member as soon as the Election Commission notifies the list of elected members.
  • Proposal Rights: Members can also propose a candidate before taking the oath of office.

Other facts

  • Limited Union Territories (UTs): Only two Union Territories participate in Rajya Sabha elections, not all of them.
  • Conditional Polling: Polling occurs only if the number of candidates exceeds the available vacancies.
  • Independent Members: Independent candidates can also be elected to Rajya Sabha.

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