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The Rajya Sabha election 'super over' that triggered a political avalanche in the hills

Last Updated 02 March 2024, 06:12 IST

Welcome ladies and gentlemen,

Last week of the shortest month of the year was a long one. Up high in the mountains of Shimla, the Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu-led Congress government is facing serious heat in the aftermath of a ‘super over’ Rajya Sabha election in the state.

Politics in West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali continued even as the prime accused in the case -- TMC’s Shajahan Sheikh -- was finally nabbed by the Bengal Police. While BJP continues to aim big, the Opposition alliance also attained small victories with seat-sharing in many states including Uttar Pradesh being sealed.

In other places, parties are in their strategy rooms to brainstorm on the selection of candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Brace yourselves as we will go through all this, and a lot more in this edition of DH Political theatre.

A political avalanche in Himachal

Nestled in the Himalayas, Himachal Pradesh is a quiet place politically. It contributes four MPs to the Lok Sabha. Rarely do we see Himachal politics getting space in the mainstream media, but last week was rare. 

Rajya Sabha filled 56 positions last week, but the contest in Himachal stood out, like its towering peaks.

A Rajya Sabha election has snowballed into a massive political crisis with the fate of Himachal Pradesh’s government hanging on a thread.

To get their MPs into the upper house, both parties needed support of MLAs. Congress with 40 MLAs was expected to prevail over BJP which had just 25. While the numbers may favour an easy win for Congress, the unpredictable nature of politics suggests that the outcome could be quite different.

Amid a lot of drama and allegations of kidnapping of Congress MLAs by none other than CM Sukhu the results came out.

Six Congress MLAs cross voted alongside 3 independents and BJP matched Congress at 34. BJP had managed to snatch a tie from the jaws of defeat. The game went into 'super over' with the winning candidate getting selected via a draw.

Congress’s fortunes have not shone in a long time now, and Tuesday's episode did nothing to change that. BJP candidate Harsh Mahajan won against Congress candidate Abhishek Singhvi in the Rajya Sabha election. And with that a sword hung over the Congress government’s rule in the state. The sword was temporarily put aside a day after the result as the Speaker of the Assembly suspended 15 MLAs from the BJP. The sword of disqualification soon fell on the rebel Congress as all six of them were suspended.

In between, Vikramaditya Singh, son of former CM Virbhadra Singh and a minister in the current regime, also resigned. However, when his resignation was not "accepted", he "refused" to press for it.

Congress asserts that all is well in the state now, but is it? We will soon know.

In Rajya Sabha, fingers ‘crossed’

At least 56 seats went to polls in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. However the contest was limited to just 15 seats as candidates on others were elected unopposed. Among the seats up for grabs, 10 were from UP, 4 from Karnataka and Himachal had a single seat. The drama in Himachal took away the limelight from what happened in other places.

In UP, BJP, which was expected to win 7, ultimately ended up with 8 with a little help from Samajwadi Party (SP) MLAs. The SP, meanwhile, could only get its two candidates elected.

Cross-voting also took place in Karnataka, but this time Congress was the beneficiary. 

BJP MLA S T Somashekar voted for the Congress candidate, while another BJP member abstained -- meaning Congress got 3 seats while BJP only one, and the JD(S) candidate was defeated.

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A bit of success, a bit of setback for I.N.D.I.A.

After some initial hiccups, the seat-sharing talks among the I.N.D.I.A. bloc partners moved ahead swiftly. The seat-sharing between SP and Congress in Uttar Pradesh was the major headline. Congress accepted the offer from SP to contest on 17 seats, and in return Akhilesh Yadav joined Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. The duo is aiming to severely dent BJP’s prospects in a state which sends a massive 80 MPs to the Lower House.

AAP and Congress also managed to zero in on seat sharing in Delhi, Haryana, Goa and Gujarat. However, Congress could not break into Bhagwant Mann’s territory where AAP has said it will contest on all seats.

The next step for the Opposition bloc is Maharashtra and West Bengal. In West Bengal, TMC seems to have refused to budge, but Congress remains hopeful that some compromise could be worked out.

While many challenges were resolved, many still await the Congress. Rahul Gandhi’s constituency of Wayanad will see CPI’s veteran Anne Raja as one of its contestants. Left parties have consistently urged Rahul to not contest from Wayanad and now they have made it as clear as they could. Will Rahul back off for an ally? Too early to say, but speculation of Rahul relinquishing his Wayanad seat is also rife

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Sandeshkhali saga

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now taken matters into his own hands as far as the politics over the alleged atrocities by TMC workers in Bengal’s Sandeshkhali is concerned. Modi, a day after the arrest of the prime accused Shajahan Sheikh, spoke in Bengal and launched an attack on the ruling TMC. He also slammed the Opposition alliance for being silent on the matter.

Bengal politics continues to be on the boil with the BJP leaving no stone unturned to make its presence felt in the TMC stronghold ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

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Eye on 370… again!

After making Article 370 a chapter in history books, BJP is aiming for another 370. This time, it is targeting 370 seats in the Lok Sabha. As mammoth a task it seems, the party is making its best efforts. PM’s outreach in South is among the ways BJP is trying to penetrate the region where it has been historically perceived as ‘weak’.

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‘Fadnavis trying to kill me’

Manoj Jarange's accusation on the Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister rocked Maharashtra politics this week. Even as Jarange ended his fast this Monday, he vowed to continue the agitation.

In the meantime, CM Eknath Shinde accused the Maratha leader of following the "script of the Opposition".

After the accusations on Fadnavis, Shinde also warned Jarange not to test the government's patience. However, Jarange’s agitation continues.

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Karnataka theatre

Karnataka’s week was also busy. The denial of entry into India to a UK professor Nitasha Kaul ignited a heated debate. While Congress used the incident to show how freedom of expression was being curbed by the Union government, BJP accused the professor of being a terrorist sympathiser.

An alleged Pakistan Zindabad slogan after the completion of Rajya Sabha polls in Karnataka has lit up the politics in the state. While the authenticity of the alleged video showing slogans being shouted is still not confirmed, BJP has trained its guns on the ruling Siddaramaiah government. The government has said that investigation is on and action will be taken if the allegations are true. A forensic report on the matter is also awaited. This comes after the temple taxation bill row where BJP-JD(S) combine had defeated the bill in the Legislative Council.

A blast at Bengaluru’s Rameshwaram Cafe is also expected to rile up politics in the capital.

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Across the world..

After much delay, Pakistan is all set to get a Prime Minister. Shehbaz Sharif is set to sit on the chair as Pakistan's new Prime Minister on Sunday, March 3. This will end the drama that the February 8 election in the country triggered. But will it? We will see!

Meanwhile, America seems set for a Trump-Biden rematch with the duo consistently outperforming their rivals in the primaries. Nikki Haley’s challenge might not be strong enough to deter Trump, and the only thing that could stop him is the American judiciary.

There is a lot to watch out for in the upcoming week, and we will be back once it's all done.

Exit stage left,

DH Newsletters Team

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(Published 02 March 2024, 06:12 IST)

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