GUWAHATI, March 17 - The schedule of the Rajya Sabha polls just ahead of the Assam Assembly elections has put the political parties in a fix as they are not in a position to ensure that all the legislators will abide by the party whip. With elections round the corner, the parties will not be able to take strong action against anyone defying the party whip in the Rajya Sabha polls.
The elections to the two Rajya Sabha seats from the State is scheduled to be held on March 21 and it is still not known whether all the Opposition parties will be able to get together to try and defeat the Congress in one of the seats. The Congress is comfortable of winning one of the two seats, but the party will have a tough fight if all the Opposition parties decide to extend support to Independent candidate Mahavir Jain.
But the main problem for the leaders of all the parties is that no one is in a position to ensure that the legislators would follow the decision of the parties. The normal practice of the Rajya Sabha polls is that the parties issue whips to the legislators to cast votes for particular candidates. In case of a three-line whip, all the legislators have to show their votes to the authorised agents of the parties and candidates. If any member defies the party whip, the parties can approach the Speaker seeking disqualification of the legislator for defying the party whip. In most cases, the legislators who defy the party whip face disqualification from the Assembly.
But as the ensuing Rajya Sabha polls will be held only after the process of Assembly election started, no legislator will be scared of getting disqualified from the Assembly and under the circumstances, it will be difficult for the leaders of the political parties to ensure that all the legislators will follow the party�s decision. Official sources said that the parties can still appeal for disqualification of a legislator for not following party whip, but it would be of academic interest only. With the Rajya Sabha polls to be held after the completion of the filing of nomination papers for the first phase of Assembly polls in the State, the parties will also not be in a position to cancel party nomination, while the legislators, who are denied party tickets, will have nothing to lose by defying party whip.
Meanwhile, not keen on taking any chance, the Congress has asked all the legislators to attend a meeting in Dispur at 11 am on March 20. Congress sources said that the party is confident of winning both the seats as two legislators of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) have already switched over to the Congress. The Congress is also hopeful that the Opposition would not be able to join hands, particularly at a time when the Assembly polls are round the corner. �If the BJP and AIUDF comes together for the Rajya Sabha polls, we will make it an issue in the Assembly polls,� Congress sources said.
Though 10 BPF legislators signed the nomination of businessman Mahavir Jain, it is still not clear whether the other Opposition parties will extend support to him. AIUDF spokesman Aminul Islam said that the party is yet to take a decision on whether the party would take part in the Rajya Sabha polls. Same is the case of the BJP, as the party is yet to announce its decision on whether to participate in the Rajya Sabha polls. The AGP is also undecided on the issue. Leader of the AGP legislature party Phani Bhushan Choudhury said that no one has yet sought the support of the AGP.