|The Rajya Sabha is rapidly emerging as the new battleground for the political opposition. The logic is simple. After the 16th general election, the opposition in general and the Congress in particular find themselves marginalized in the Lok Sabha. On the contrary they outnumber the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Rajya Sabha; and having found common cause, the opposition is now beginning to dominate proceedings in the upper house. The immediate fallout of this redrawing of the political battle lines is that the NDA is being frustrated in its efforts to push through key legislation—such as amendments to relax the foreign investment limit in insurance. At the same time it is also enabling the opposition rediscover its mojo; in the first six months after the 16th general election the opposition has been on the defensive. The rapid ascendancy of the BJP as the principal pole of Indian politics and the decline of the Congress have only accelerated this realignment. Even regional parties such as the Trinamool Congress (TMC), now view the BJP as a political threat. Out of the 243 members in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP has 45 whereas arch-rival Congress with 69 is the largest. The lack of numbers is exactly why the NDA has been unable to quieten the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, which has seen several disruptions in the ongoing winter session of Parliament. Data compiled by the New Delhi-based PRS Legislative Research shows that from 25 November, while the Lok Sabha has been adjourned on only one day during question hour, the Rajya Sabha has been adjourned on eight out of the nine working days so far. As a result, the upper house has lagged the Lok Sabha in terms of productivity—working hours as a proportion of scheduled time. The Lok Sabha recorded a productivity of 96%, while it was 57% for the Rajya Sabha. “Thanks to the opposition’s numbers, it is easier to hold the government accountable in the Rajya Sabha,” M.V. Rajeev Gowda, a Rajya Sabha member of the Congress, said. “The job of the government is to take into account the constructive points raised by other parties. In the Lok Sabha they are steamrolling us, but in the Rajya Sabha they are unable to do so,” Gowda, also a former professor at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, added. The Congress started the winter session by protesting against the renaming of the domestic terminal of Hyderabad airport on 25 November. It has attacked the government for failing to keep its promise to bring back to the country black money stashed away in foreign bank accounts, demanded the dismissal of the BJP government in Chhattisgarh for the botched operations in a mass sterilisation camp, and finally took on the ruling party over a hate speech by minister of state for food processing industries Niranjan Jyoti. Even other major opposition parties including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United) and the Nationalist Congress Party have a larger proportional representation in the Rajya Sabha than in the Lok Sabha. “It is a fact that in parliamentary democracy, numbers are important, but they are not the only factor. In a multi-party democracy like ours, what is more important is accommodating the views of all the parties, whether big or small,” said D. Raja, a leader of Communist Party of India and veteran parliamentarian. Political experts said that while in terms of the numbers, the opposition parties are better placed in the upper house, challenging the government in the Lok Sabha, too, is possible if there is issue-based unity among the parties. “If you look at it from the context of sheer numbers, the opposition parties have a visible presence in the Rajya Sabha. However, it is not impossible to mount an effective challenge in the Lok Sabha even in the face of reduced numbers, but it is not really happening,” said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a New Delhi-based political analyst. “There are possibilities and it depends on the Congress leadership to bring other opposition parties together including the Left parties coupled with a better floor management and the right issues,” Dubey added. Mamata Banerjee led-TMC, one of the most vocal and aggressive opposition parties, is an exception to the case with 33 members in the Lok Sabha and 12 in the Rajya Sabha.