New Delhi: Voting for 25 of 59 Rajya Sabha seats is underway. The polling will be on till 4 pm. Voting will be held in six states.
33 candidates from 10 states were declared elected unopposed on March 15. Seven union ministers including Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar were among them.
Besides Uttar Pradesh where Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is in the fray and who is certain to win, West Bengal, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Telangana will also feature in the polls.
A bypoll will also be held for one seat in Kerala where MP Veerendra Kumar, the Left-backed candidate of Sharad Yadav faction of the JD(U), is pitted against Babu Prasad of the Congress.
The BJP is expected to gain about a dozen seats in the Upper House and consolidate its position as the largest party, but it is far from a majority in the 245-member House.
In Uttar Pradesh, where there are 11 candidates in the fray for 10 seats, it is a prestige battle with the ruling BJP out to avenge its recent bypoll humiliation at the hands of the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's BSP.
Arithmetically, the ruling BJP can easily win eight out of the 10 seats in Uttar Pradesh.
The four-MLA strong Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), after being placated by BJP chief Amit Shah, and the Apna Dal (Sonelal) with nine MLAs have decided to vote for BJP nominees.
"We are standing with the BJP. We had held a meeting of our MLAs and it was decided that we will strongly support the BJP," national president of Apna Dal (S) Ashish Patel told news agency PTI in Lucknow.
The BJP and its allies have 324 MLAs in the 403-member Assembly after the death of its Noorpur MLA in a road accident recently.
To secure a win, a candidate needs 37 first preference votes.
Arithmetically, the BJP can easily win eight of the 10 seats and will be left with 28 surplus votes.
"There will be contest on the ninth seat," a senior UP BJP leader said, exuding confidence that the saffron party would bag nine seats.
The SP and the BSP also appeared sure of win one seat each. The SP has fielded Jaya Bachchan and the BSP Bhimrao Ambedkar.
The country's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, sends 31 MPs to the 245-member Rajya Sabha, and the BJP, which won a massive victory in the 2017 Assembly elections, is yet to get a lion's share of these.
Counting of ballots will be taken up at 5 pm.
Presently, the BJP has 58 Rajya Sabha MPs.
Besides Jaitley, the others in the fray are Ashok Bajpai, Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, Sakal Deep Rajbhar, Kanta Kardam, Anil Jain, Harnath Singh Yadav, GVL Narasimha Rao and Anil Kumar Agarwal.
Altogether six candidates, including Congress nominee Abhisek Manu Singhvi, are in the fray for the five Rajya Sabha seats from West Bengal. The state's ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has decided to back the eminent lawyer.
Five candidates are in the electoral arena in Karnataka for four seats. The state's ruling Congress has fielded three nominees, while there are one each of the BJP and JD(S).
Elections will also be held for two seats in Jharkhand where three candidates are in the fray, including two of the state's ruling BJP and one of the Congress.
One candidate each of the ruling BJP and main opposition Congress will cross swords for the lone Rajya Sabha seat from Chhattisgarh.
Four candidates will try their luck from Telangana where polling will be held for three seats. The ruling TRS has enough numbers to get two of its three candidates through without a hitch. It hopes to push a third candidate through, with the support of the AIMIM led by Asaduddin Owaisi. The Congress has fielded one in a token contest. Opposition BJP and TDP have said they would not take part in the Rajya Sabha election.
In Kerala, the Left-led coalition and the Congress-led opposition grouping are contesting the by-election for one seat. The Left has enough to win the lone seat with 19 votes to spare.