The Rajya Sabha is one of the two chambers of the Indian Parliament, also called the Council of States or the Upper House, with the Lok Sabha called the Lower House.
Members of the Rajya Sabha are elected by members of the Legislative Assembly of the State or Union Territory (UT) they represent. It can have no more than 238 members representing states and UTs, according to the Constitution, plus 12 leaders in the fields of literature, science, art, and social service nominated by the President of India.
The Rajya Sabha currently has 245 seats, 12 of them held by nominated members and 233 by elected members. In 1952, when the first Rajya Sabha was constituted, it had 216 members.
The Name Rajya Sabha
The Constituent Assembly, which functioned as Independent India’s first central legislature, decided after much debate that a country so vast and diverse must have the voice of states adequately represented in policy making. With the Constituent Assembly, which later turned into the Provisional Parliament, India had a unicameral or single central legislature till the first elections were held in 1952. It was constituted on April 3, 1952. It’s first ever session was held on May 13, 1952.
The name Rajya Sabha was first used by the Chair on August 23, 1954. The first Chairman of the Upper House was then Vice-President Dr S Radhakrishnan, who later became India’s second President .
Do All States Have An Equal Number Of Rajya Sabha Members?
No, the number of seats that states and UTs have in the Upper House is based on their population. With the re-organisation of states and the formation of new states, the number of seats allotted to states has changed from time to time.
Uttar Pradesh sends the most, 31 Rajya Sabha members to Parliament. Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura have one member each in the upper house.
Of the seven Union Territories, only Delhi and Pudicherry have seats, Delhi has three, Puducherry, one.
Who Can Be A Member Of The Rajya Sabha?
To be a member, a person must be an Indian citizen and must be at least 30 years of age. The Constitution allows Parliament to prescribe other qualifications by making a law. MPs represent a state and not a constituency as Lok Sabha MPs do.
How Members Are Elected
Unlike the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha is not dissolved after a fixed term, with a new House elected. It is a permanent House, with one third of its members retiring every two years.
Elections are held then to fill those seats. If elected for a full term, a person serves as a Rajya Sabha MP for six years. If a seat becomes vacant because of the death of a member or any other reason, a bye-election is held to fill it and the person elected serves for the rest of that term.
Its members are elected by MLAs (Members of Legislative Assembly) of the state they represent in what is called a system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote.
India’s Vice-President presides over the Rajya Sabha as its Chairman. A senior member of the ruling party is its Leader , either the Prime Minister if he is a member of the house, as Dr Manmohan Singh of the Congress was, or a minister. Among others who were Prime Ministers as Upper House members are Indira Gandhi, HD Deve Gowda and Inder Kumer Gujral.
Lal Bahadur Shastri and VP Singh served as Leaders of the Rajya Sabha and Prime Minister at different times. Other prominent former leaders of the Upper House include the BJP’s LK Advani, who was Deputy Prime Minister, and former President Pranab Mukherjee.
Gopalaswami Ayyangar was the first Leader of the Rajya Sabha.
A senior member of the main opposition party is appointed Leader of the Opposition.
Currently In The Rajya Sabha
Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, who took office in August 2017, is the current chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is Leader of the House while the Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad is Leader of the Opposition. At present, the BJP and Congress top the list of parties in the upper house with 57 members each, though that is expected to change next year when elections will be held for 68 seats.
Majority In The Rajya Sabha
The BJP and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) swept to power by winning a big majority in the Lok Sabha in 2014, but have so far been at a disadvantage in the Rajya Sabha, with the opposition holding more seats.
For one, because Rajya Sabha members are elected by legislators in states and so the number of seats a party has depends on its position in a state. Also, here elections follow a schedule different from Lok Sabha elections. Earlier the BJP and its allies were in power in fewer states. That has changed since 2014, with the BJP and partners winning assembly elections in many states and this is starting to reflect in the Rajya Sabha.