Deep Dive Into Defections

Almost every human doctrine works based on assumptions. For the free market to be successful, there should be a level playing field. And for the communism to be successful, it is assumed that central planners were genuine statesmen and would have all the information required to make a wise decision. Similarly, members of our constituent assembly enacted the constitution based on the very basic assumption: the future leaders of the country would be statesmen and would lose the elections if they were not so. They believed in the people. They believed in their future generation.

During the enactment of the constitution, there was a unanimous call that ours would be a democracy. However, there was a split over its form whether it should be presidential or parliamentary. While the former provides stability, the latter provides responsibility and accountability. At the end of much debate, we stuck with the British style parliamentary system. B R Ambedkar himself, while submitting the draft constitution iterated the reason for the same. He said that parliamentary system allowed for the daily assessment of the executive, thus providing the more responsible government. He felt that it would be far more effective and more responsible than the presidential form of democracy.

Considering the representation of the constituent assembly, one could never argue otherwise. Though many were the members of the same party, they made rich arguments and corrections for the welfare of the people and the state. However, things changed. As British historian Lord Acton once said ‘power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’, power incentivised the lawmakers to remain in power in all possible ways, even stripping the ideologies what their parties stood for. As time had passed, we could understand through the events of history that the stability was traded by the lawmakers for their self-interest and expecting responsibility from them became a distant dream for the common man.

In 1967, elections were held in more than 14 states, out of which Congress party won a majority in only one state. Hence, there were mass defections to other parties for the post of ministerial berths and other lucrative posts. It was estimated that in four years (1967-’71), there were 142 defections in Parliament, 1969 defections in legislative assemblies, 32 governments collapsed and 212 defectors were appointed as ministers. In Haryana, an MLA named Gaya Lal defected three times in a week. Such defections were the reason for the anti-defection law, passed in Parliament in 1985. Anti-defection law disqualifies any member if he voluntarily resigns from the elected party or defied a whip issued by the party. However, it spares the members if the two-thirds of the party split and merges with the other party.

Here we are where we could watch and listen to mass defections happening across the country every day. Soon after the ruling party wins a resounding majority in the recent Lok Sabha elections, they find no patience and resort themselves to all means to achieve a majority in Rajya Sabha without disqualifications. Four out of six TDP MPs from Rajya Sabha merged with BJP and number of MPs from SP are putting down their papers for reasons best known to the ruling party so that new MP could be elected from BJP since they have an astounding majority in UP legislature.

Coming to the states, matters worse. In Goa, 10 Congress MLAs merged themselves with BJP, avoiding any defections. In Telangana, 12 Congress MLAs merged themselves with TRS. In West Bengal, one of the BJP leaders says that 107 legislators from various parties are in touch with the BJP. And in Karnataka, 16 Congress-JDS MLAs resigned voluntarily so that BJP could form the government in the state. And the number is exactly 16 so that the majority mark comes to 105, an exact number of BJP MLAs in the legislature. There is an interesting quote from social media which is portrayed as thoughts of BJP voter: ‘ After BJP wins, we thought 50% of the Congress leaders would be in jail, but 50% of them are now in BJP’.

And what makes things worse is that all such happenings are within the ambit of law and the blame shifts to the failure of the opposition party to hold its troop together. Yes, the opposition is weak and much need to be done for their survival so that democracy can be cherished. That doesn’t mean that such happenings are ethical and healthy to be pursued with enthusiasm. In epic Mahabharata, when Draupadi was disrobed, all those titans and giants in the hall of justice, failing to stop that act, called it as lawful. Such acceptance from those titans didn’t make the act lawful. It presented the time for a change.

One could very well argue that the opposition is so distorted that any lawmaker could disband it and pursue the path where victory is guaranteed. But I could never find such signs anywhere. If that was the case, then the first government that would have fallen could be Tamil Nadu, where the ruling party lost all except one in the recent Lok Sabha polls. But the reality is very different. It is the survival instinct that is causing these defections. One of the TDP MPs defected, as I mentioned earlier, was raided by ED and income tax officials a few months ago. One of the MLAs from Goa defected recently was accused of molestation.

I would like here to quote Warren Buffet, the quote which was used by the parliamentarian Mahua Moitra recently during a debate on UAPA amendment bill in the Lok Sabha. Warren Buffet says that if you put a police car on someone’s tail for 500 miles, he is going to get a ticket (fine). It is accepted across all sections that our laws are very huge and in recent days, we could understand that the state has become more centralised and more powerful than ever before. So, people are gripped in fear, desperation and chaos that criticising the government would lead their lives in jeopardy. The only way, a person can rescue themselves is to support the government and the ruling party. This could be the main reason for such defections in recent times.

So, this is the time for a change. While many people want the anti-defection law to be scrapped, I would prefer the law to be streamlined and made powerful. Various law commissions and several other commissions, which look into the anti-defection law, has come out with multiple modifications. It is time to review them and amend the act accordingly. Few recommendations are worth for consideration and passing: 1. The power of disqualification should be in the hands of the President/Governor, on the recommendation of the Election commission. 2. Disqualification should be restricted only if the members vote against the party in trust vote and finance bills so that members can share free thoughts on the other bills.

In addition to that, it should be made that disqualified members should be prevented from contesting any elections for a specified period.

I am fully aware that such lonely hue cry is not going to make any difference but I hope that this would provide food for thoughts for those who feel that supporting the government on every matter equates supporting the nation and one who is against certain policies of the government is an alien.

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