Defection redefined

Defections, whether through inducement or otherwise, are almost the rule in Indian politics. However, the manner in which three members of the Congress and two members of the Janata Dal (Secular) in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly have jumped ship to join the Bharatiya Janata Party strains credulity. Within two months of winning the election, the five have resigned their Assembly seats, making the anti-defection law look like an ass. Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa promptly made three of them Ministers and another chairperson of the Slum Clearance Board. There was not the slightest attempt to conceal or camouflage the fact that they were lured by the fishes and loaves of office. Every one of the defectors is expected to contest the by-elections caused by their resignations on the BJP ticket. The party, three short of a majority when the State Assembly was constituted in May, was able to win over six Independents and form the government. However, as the anti-defection law does not allow Independents to join a party without attracting disqualification, the ruling party had only a small margin of comfort. Independents would always remain free to walk away when they pleased. The present round of defections was meant to overcome this problem. If the defectors win the by-elections, the BJP will enjoy a simple majority without the need for support from Independents.

Not surprisingly, the defections have shaken the Congress and the JD(S). The Congress has gone so far as to urge Governor Rameshwar Thakur to order a criminal investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The irony of making this demand when the Congress party is itself involved neck-deep in the game of winning over all kinds of political elements, with inducements that can only be speculated upon at this juncture, for the survival of the Central government has evidently escaped the Karnataka State unit. The truth is that as long as legislators stay within the four corners of the anti-defection law, nothing can be done to stop them from being politically unprincipled. It is for the people who voted for such elements to raise their voice against their shameless acts. As for the BJP, rewarding the defectors with Ministries has bred some resentment within its ranks. With this, the Ministry has reached the legally permissible strength of 34. Considering that three-time MLAs have been kept out of the government, the rewards showered on the defectors could present the Yeddyurappa government with a political situation more challenging than the one the BJP faced when it came tantalisingly close to winning a majority, on its own steam, in the Assembly.

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