Polling is being held today in the crucial election to 27 Rajya Sabha seats in seven states, with a keen contest on cards in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Haryana.
While 30 of the total 57 seats in the current round of biennial elections to the Upper House have already been decided without a contest, the fate of candidates for the remaining 27 seats will be decided by this evening when the results will be announced.
Polling began at Assembly premises in the state capitals at 9 AM and will continue till 4 PM.
In Haryana, where polling is being held for two seats, Union Minister Birender Singh from BJP is assured of a comfortable win. Independent candidate R K Anand has got the backing of Congress and its rival INLD, making it an uphill task for media baron and BJP-backed Independent candidate Subhash Chandra.
In Uttar Pradesh, where elections are being held to 11 seats, interest is centred around a fight between former union minister Kapil Sibal and BJP-backed independent socialite Preeti Mahapatra.
Sibal will need the support of BSP, which has 12 votes more than necessary for the success of its own candidates Satish Chandra Mishra and Ashok Sidharth.
BSP supremo Mayawati has maintained suspense over her party’s support in Uttar Pradesh. But Sibal can draw heart from the fact that she has already extended backing for a Congress candidate in Madhya Pradesh by promising one vote required for senior Supreme Court lawyer Vivek Tankha, fielded by Congress.
Congress has 29 MLAs and needs the backing of five more to see Sibal through.
The ruling SP has fielded seven candidates including Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma, who both rejoined the party recently, and Reoti Raman Singh. Its seventh candidate is, however, short of 9 first preference votes. SP has been promised backing by Ajit Singh-led RLD which has 8 MLAs.
The BJP has fielded Shiv Pratap Shukla, who is sure to get elected on its own 41 MLAs, and has offered 7 surplus votes to Mahapatra.
Karnataka, where four seats are up for grab, is poised to witness a battle between the ruling Congress and the JD(S). Union Minister Nirmala Seetharaman of BJP, who needs just one vote more than the party’s strength of 44, and former union ministers Jairam Ramesh and Oscar Fernandes of Congress are sure of victory.
With 122 members, Congress has a surplus of 33 votes after ensuring the victory of Ramesh and Fernandes. It has fielded former senior IPS officer K C Ramamurthy as its third candidate for which it requires 12 more votes.
With 40 members, dissidence-hit JDS is in an unenviable position as five MLAs have virtually raised a banner of revolt amid reports that they might indulge in cross voting to help Congress.
JDS needs five more votes for its candidate B M Farooq, a corporate personality, to sail through but is struggling to keep the herd together.
Allegations of bribing JD(S) and Independent MLAs marred the polls in Karnataka though the Election Commission rejected demands for cancelling them.
In Madhya Pradesh, while ruling BJP, which has 164 votes, is assured of victory of its candidates M J Akbar and Anil Dave, a fight is on for its third candidate Vinod Gotia, who faces a tough challenge from Vivek Tankha of Congress, as he needs 10 more than the 48 surplus votes his party has.
A candidate in Madhya Pradesh needs 58 votes for victory. Tankha, whose party Congress has 57 votes, appears comfortably placed after BSP announced the backing of its four MLAs.
Rajasthan is another state where Congress, with 24 MLAs, has forced a contest by backing an Independent candidate Kamal Morarka. A candidate needs 41 votes to win.
With 160 members in Rajasthan Assembly, the BJP is certain of victory of Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, its Vice President Om Prakash Mathur, former RBI official Ram Kumar Sharma and Harsh Vardhan Singh, a member of the erstwhile Dungarpur royal family.
The fourth BJP candidate needs only four more votes to sail through, which the party expects to get from two MLAs of National Unionist Zamindara Party and three Independents.
In Jharkhand also, a close contest is possible where a united opposition can upset the ruling BJP’s calculations. But its first candidate and Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is sure of victory.
The BJP has 43 MLAs on its own and enjoys the support of six more MLAs of its allies.
JMM supremo Shibu Soren’s son Basant is pitted against BJP’s Mahesh Poddar. However, if Congress (6), RJD and rest of the opposition come together and back the JMM candidate, Basant can look at victory.
Uttarkhand, where election is only for one seat, Congress nominee Pradeep Tamta is set to sail through needing just two additional votes apart from his party’s 26 and ally PDF’s six.