An unscrupulous game
The trend of using defection to win Rajya Sabha seats is a troubling pattern that demands the strengthening of anti-defection laws
The upcoming biennial elections to Rajya Sabha are crucial to both the BJP and the opposition. Elections for 24 Rajya Sabha seats spread across 10 states will be held on June 19. Rajya Sabha members are indirectly elected by MLAs of state assemblies. The political parties win their seats according to their strength in the Assembly.
The BJP is moving towards a workable majority in the Upper House while the Congress-led opposition till now had an upper hand because of its numerical strength. It was able to block several bills and controversial laws.
Dominating both houses is essential for the Modi government to complete its core agenda. While the Prime Minister has strengthened himself with his impressive mandate in 2019 Lok Sabha polls winning more number of seats than in 2014, the majority is still eluding the BJP in the Elder's House. Emboldened by success in the past six months of the Modi 2.0, Prime Minister would have pushed through his party's agenda like the 'Uniform Civil Code', population regulation measures etc. had not the deadly Coronavirus hit the country and the world.
The NDA needs 122 for a majority in a 245 house and currently, the ruling party is functioning with the support of the regional parties from the South and Eastern India. Fearing the Government's investigating agencies, vulnerable leaders facing cases like Mulayam Singh, Mayawati etc. have also reluctantly supported the controversial bills like the Triple Talaaq, repeal of Article 370, etc., in the past. The BJP's game of 'divide opposition' has worked well for the Government. Most crucial bills were passed in the past one- year due to lack of opposition unity.
Why are these biennial elections important? It is the Upper House that enables the Government to get a smooth transaction of business if it has the majority. Every new seat counts. The BJP is very close to the goal of obtaining a majority but the pace is quite slow. In the upcoming polls, Congress and BJP may win some seats and lose some seats. Regional parties like the SP and the BSP and left parties are slowly fading away in the Rajya Sabha. The regional parties like the Aam Aadmi Party, YSRCP, TRS, and others have gained more.
Currently, BJP is the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha with 75 seats followed by a distant 39 of Congress, 13 of Trinamool Congress, nine each of AIADMK and BJD, eight of Samajwadi Party, seven each of TRS and DMK, five each of JD (U) CPI-M, RJD, 4 each of BSP and NCP, 3 each of Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal, etc. With allies AIADMK, JD (U), Shiromani Akali Dal, Asom Gana Parishad, the Bodoland People's Front, Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) and the Republican Party of India (A), NDA sits at 104 including three nominated MPs and four independents, which support it? The BJP has also made some artificial gains by luring Congress leaders like Sanjay Singh and Neeraj Shekhar thereby reducing the strength of the Congress in the Upper House. The real challenge for the opposition is the lack of floor coordination to take on the treasury benches.
What is worrying is the trend of using defection for winning the Rajya Sabha seats. Look at what is happening in Gujarat! Close to the polls last week three Congress MLAs resigned even as the Congress accused the BJP of poaching on its legislators. Congress has taken them to resorts and kept them captive in a camp. After the resignation of the three MLAs, the Congress Party's strength in the182 member assembly is now only 65. The resignations will hurt the Congress' prospects of winning the second seat.
Unfortunately, this defection game has become the practice in the past few years with legislators taken to resorts to ensure their votes. This is not the spirit of the Constitution or anti-defection laws passed by the Parliament. To put an end to the 'Aya Ram, Gaya Ram' culture, and to preserve the party system, the law came about. But in practice, it is misused. The MPs make laws and also defy them as we see many times. People elect them to represent them in Parliament and after getting elected they try to change parties for personal gains. This defection game is played out often and this time also there is no exception.
The electorate needs to check this kind of political culture. Legislators who act in unscrupulous ways should be voted out in subsequent elections. The anti-defection law needs to be looked into again by the lawmakers and reformed. There should be a provision to recall the elected representatives. In short, there is a need for electoral reforms on many things including transparency in funding. There are many reports on the electoral reforms are lying with the Government and these must be implemented. For this, there is a need for political will.
Views expressed are personal