Four MLAs and one MLC have decided to cross over to Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) from Telugu Desam Party (TDP). Talasani Srinivasa Yadav, Teegala Krishna Reddy, Prakash Goud and Dharma Reddy, all MLAs and V Gangadhar Goud, MLC of TDP have spoken to the media and expressed their intention to support the ruling party in order to facilitate the building of Golden Telangana (Bangaaru Telangana). Some of them strongly criticized TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu for working against the interests of Telangana State. All the five leaders of the TDP met Telangana Chief Minister Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) at his residence for one hour yesterday morning. Ministers Harish Rao and K Tarak Rama Rao were also present. They all came out of KCR’s residence and told media persons that they are going to support him. But later in the afternoon, Prakash Goud had met Naidu and told the media that he is not going to join the TRS at least for six months. Dharma Reddy also is understood to be two minds.
The strength of the ruling TRS has increased from 63 to 72 after elections and it likely to go up further. Naidu castigated those who got benefited by TDP and chose to desert the party for personal gain. He said Indira Gandhi did her best to destroy TDP but could not succeed. TRS cannot make any difference to the TDP in Telangana, he averred.
A sense of déjà vu
For those who have been observing political developments in Telangana over the months and years this had not come as a surprise. Before the formalities are completed and the five leaders join TRS by symbolically accepting pink piece of cloth from the party supremo, some routine statements would be made. Leaders of the party in power would comment that the days of the TDP in Telangana are numbered, leaders of that party are eager to jump onto a safer pink ship before their yellow ship drowns in troubled waters. The TDP leaders would contest this statement by contending that those who enjoyed power during the heydays of the TDP are now ditching the party for selfish gains and making irresponsible allegations with an ulterior motive to malign the mother party. If these statements sound familiar and have a déjà vu effect, one cannot help. There were a number of similar occasions in the last five years. We witnessed so many such spectacles. The TDP leaders used to say about the Congress leaders who joined their party in the similar way as the TRS leaders today are talking about the TDP leaders who opt to join them. They (TDP leaders) boasted then that those who were impressed and overwhelmed by the leadership qualities of their chief stood in cue to get admitted into their party. The anguish and anger being expressed by the TDP leaders understandable. Had the TDP leaders paused for a while and thought as to why those leaders who had enjoyed power and pelf in Congress rule were looking towards their party or had they shut the party’s doors firmly on the ‘jump jilaanis’ (defectors) as founder-president NT Rama Rao did, the present resentment being expressed by them would have sounded reasonable. There could have been some people who understood their agony. If we go a little back into the recent past, the TDP leasers are forgetting their comments about the YSRCP leaders in Andhra Pradesh who joined their party after elections, They are fresh in the memory of the people. They were right when they said that even if the leaders desert the workers would be enough to keep the party alive. If the same comments were made before the leaders had bidden goodbye to the party, the ordinary workers who were carrying the party flag all along would have felt happy. The party which claims the two states as two eyes would be sending confusing signals to its leaders and workers when it follows two sets of principles in two states. The sooner it realizes its folly the better it would be for the health of the party.
The crust of the matter
Coming to the crust of the matter, the voters of the two states did their solemn duty in the general elections held in May this year. In Delhi too they gave clear majority to the BJP without having to depend on some other party for survival. But what has been happening ever since? Both the parties have been behaving as though the people had let them down and their expectations were belied. Both TDP and TRS are one in this aspect. They have been differing in all aspect. The single motto is to weaken the opposition party. Poaching the opposition could be understood if the ruling party has slender majority or is in minority. Even when there is no danger to the survival of the governments, the ruling parties have been using all means to attract MLAs and MLCs from the opposition parties. At the Centre, the leader of the ruling BJP which has very good majority on its own has been declaring that his aim is to see that the country is rid of the Congress party, “Congress mukt Bharat”. We heard some serious allegations which were aimed at maiming the opposition parties. What we are witnessing today is a new kind of politics. There were occasions in the past when the opposition parties used to entice the members of the ruling party to fell the governments that run with slender majority. But now we find the ruling parties spreading their nets to catch the members of the opposition parties as soon as they come to power after winning in the elections. One can vehemently state without any fear of contradiction that this kind of petty strategies would do no good to democracy. The harm you do to unto others today would soon haunt and catch up with you. To expect the political parties to understand the essence of this adage may be too much. Who has the time or desire to care for the principles and values in these days when expediency is order of the day?
Taking advantage of the lacunae
We have to take note of the changes that are taking place when we discuss the issue relating to defection. There is no doubt a law to arrest this immoral trend. When Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister three decades ago, he brought about 52nd amendment to the Constitution in order to arrest this unethical practice. According to the amendment, one third of the total strength of any legislature party is needed to legally ‘merge’ with another (generally ruling) party without attracting punitive action. As many unscrupulous leaders were taking advantage of this provision and continuing to defect there were many amendments to the Act since then to sharpen its teeth. The people’s representatives who make the laws are adept at flouting it using the lacunae therein to facilitate defection. That is why horse-trading is going on unabated despite many a law intended to prevent the same. The loopholes in the laws are responsible for the defectors going scot free. After 18 years of study and examination and bad experience, there was another constitutional amendment in 2003. According to this amendment if a section of the party wants to justify its decision to join another party as a merger and not a defection, they have to constitute one third of the strength of the legislature party. If they have no such numbers, any member or group of members have to tender resignation to their membership of the legislature before joining another party. Those who resign in such a way would not be eligible to get any office of profit. Thanks to these amendments, floor crossing has become rather difficult. But our politicians are go getters who are capable of circumventing any law. They know very well how to overcome the legal hurdles in a perfectly legitimate manner. Soon after elections those who end up in opposition would start making noise to make it clear that they are unhappy and ready to jump the fence. For, they are just interested in winning elections, they believe that serving the people is not possible without power and position. That is why they tender their resignations to their party and the legislative membership which they got because of the party to prepare ground to join the ruling party. Soon after, by-elections would be held and they would contest as the candidates of the ruling party and most probably win and triumphantly enter the cabinet. There are a number of examples to establish this point. That is how some persons have been watering down the laws which were meant to prevent defections by elected representatives. They have no need or compunction to think about the ethical aspect of their acts. The decision to accept or reject or keep in abeyance the resignations of those who are planning to switch parties is taken by the Speaker of the House. It is the Speaker’s discretion. Even the courts have no right to hear or reverse such decisions. For those who have been keenly watching political developments in the state for the last five or six years, it would not be difficult to find instances to buttress this argument. Even in this affair, the ruling party would have the upper hand. Thus floor crossing would be constitutional or unconstitutional depending on the convenience of the ruling party. Supreme Court, on its part, has plugged some of the loopholes in the Anti-Defection law. The apex court had struck down the disciplinary action taken by Goa Assembly speaker disqualifying two members. But then, it did not find fault with the provisions in the 10th schedule of the Constitution.
As is its wont, honest members of the legislatures would be affected because of this law. Members will be forced willy-nilly to abide by all decisions taken by their party and to vote for all the Bills irrespective of their merits and demerits. Independent members have some flexibility in this law. They can support any party they like depending on the merits of the issues. But they cannot join such parties. The law says those who won as independents have to continue as independents. There was an interesting case in Haryana. Some members who were elected as independents were rumored to have joined the ruling party and it appeared in the media. One TV channel claimed that they themselves told its reporter that they had joined the ruling party. Speaker of Haryana Assembly declared them disqualified. They went to court of law. Even the SC had upheld the decision of the Speaker.
Democracy in danger!
The word ‘politics’ that we are using in English was derived from Greek word ‘politica’. Our politicians often quote the definition of democracy given by former US president Abraham Lincoln. He said that democracy is a system of government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is about the same meaning of the Greek word ‘politica’. The ‘people’ in democracy have been undermined and the ‘leaders’ have come to dominate the system. Who is responsible for this state of affairs? Is it the people, the leaders or the parties? Every section has a part in this sin. As someone pointed out, politics have become a quagmire and anyone who steps on that would go down deeper and deeper. That is why any member of legislature who is convinced that he has no future in the present political party is crossing over to the party of his choice. While some parties encourage those who are prepared to jump the wall, other parties organize ladders to the wall to persuade their members to change their mind and come back to their party. Nara Chandrababu Naidu was partially successful in pulling back one MLA on Thursday. It was a drama enacted many times albeit with change in parties and actors. Whether the legislators are jumping the walls of their own volition or someone has been luring them is a moot point.
The debatable point is that if those who make the laws find ways to violate them, there is no sanctity to the law making exercise. Even the legislatures that make laws lose their meaning. In a nutshell, the very definition, meaning and purpose of democracy would be undermined. Indian democracy would be strong only when all political parties understand these pitfalls and take measures to steer the democratic ship clear of them.