Will the contentious farm bills clear Rajya Sabha tomorrow?
The Rajya Sabha will take up the passage of the three contentious farm bills on Sunday, amid massive protests in Punjab and Haryana. The bills had passed in the Lok Sabha, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance has a majority. However, in the Rajya Sabha, the numbers game is significantly different. So, will the bills pass in the Rajya Sabha?
What are the controversial bills?
The controversial bills are: The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Farmers fear the legislation would keep them from availing a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce. They continue to protest against the bills.
BJP-led NDA has 105 seats in 243-member Rajya Sabha
The 243-member Rajya Sabha has a majority mark of 122. The BJP falls short of enjoying a majority, with 86 seats in the House. Along with its allies, the BJP-led NDA has 105 seats. However, 10 MPs have tested positive for COVID-19 while 15 others have said that they will not be able to attend Sunday's session, thereby lowering the majority mark.
BJP expects support from 'friendly' regional parties
The BJP, which has issued a three-line whip directing its MPs to be present in the Rajya Sabha, is expecting success. The BJP could also rely on other "friendly" regional parties—such as Odisha's BJD, Andhra Pradesh's YSR Congress, and Telangana's TRS—to back the legislation. The BJD has nine seats, TRS has seven, and the YSR Congress has six seats.
BJP's ally, Akali Dal, has opposed the 'anti-farmer' bills
However, one of the party's oldest allies, the Shiromani Akali Dal, has protested against the "anti-farmer" bills. The Akalis have three MPs. The Akali Dal also pulled its lone representative from the Union Cabinet, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, as a sign of protest.
Government expects 135 votes in favor
Sources told NDTV that the BJP-led Centre is expecting around 135 votes in favor of the bills. Notably, the Shiv Sena—a former BJP ally—has said its three MPs will support the bills. The Shiv Sena had formed an alliance with the Congress party and the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra last year, against then-ally BJP. The NCP's four MPs will reportedly support the bills.
Slim lead for Centre over Opposition
The Opposition includes the Congress party, which has 40 seats, and the Trinamool Congress, which has 13. The Congress can rely on other regional parties such as the BSP (four seats), the Samajwadi Party (eight seats), and the AAP (three seats). Sources told NDTV that the Congress has approached the YSR Congress, BJD, and TRS for support, but the response has not been encouraging.