On this 72nd birthday, our Honourable Prime Minister would be thinking of leaving a legacy behind. While 72 is relatively young in Indian politics considering his one-time mentor L K Advani is twenty years older and living an advisory political life, it is also time to ponder over putting a stamp on a game-changing course correction to set Indian politics right.
It is only the Prime Minister who has the mandate and political strength who can make a decisive move to enact a legislation without a permanent stop to defections. He has no impediments and has the required MPs in both Houses to get a law enacted, to replace a weak and self-defeating anti-defection law that has encouraged mass defections.
Indians who do not wish to see India ever go down in democracy and freedom rankings, are expectantly waiting for the Prime Minister to initiate and then see how many parties including regional ones embrace it.
To understand which political forces are serious about removing defections, let PM and his party give a call to all State governments to pass a resolution in their Assemblies asking for no-defection law, which does not permit any defection.
At the same time, the no defection bill should be passed in both Houses of Parliament and a law enacted within a year. This is needed so that it becomes effective in the country before 2024 and is applicable in all State elections that are scheduled before that.
The nation will then see if all parties including those who are screaming murder of democracy, solidly back and push for a no defection law to replace the anti-defection law.
No political party can ever oppose such a bill and hope to win elections
At the same time, by introducing such a bill, will force all political parties to declare which side of the fence they stood.
If you deep dive into what ails India as a whole, the root cause is the political immorality which is a sum of the loss of integrity, ethics, morality, and honesty toward oneself, to those who the elected serve- the people and to the ultimate power- the constitution, which gives them the right to contest, get elected and acquire positions, paid for by the people.
What binds our political actions is trust. In this template, what should be embodied is that once a person chooses a party and gets selected to be elected and contests elections, that relationship between the politicians and the party has to have a fixed tenure, like a contract. This is because a politician who joins a party and contests on its symbol establishes a contract with the people based on that symbol.
If that is not the case then those who rightly think that they can win elections as individuals, should proudly do so independently, and have the honesty to discuss with voters who he or she should back as an MLA, post elections.
But does one see that happening? No. And there’s a reason why. A powerful regional satrap knows that personal votes is enough to win an election, but it is next to impossible to get a cabinet berth without contesting on a party ticket.
To cure defection, you need to reach to the root of the disease-power seeking, and not just treat its symptoms
The purpose of elections is to be in power, with a State-sponsored life to further increase your means. Therefore, when the template of elections has changed then the Anti-defection law has become an enabler of mass scale defection of two-thirds MLAs, rather than be its disabler.
Selfless politicians who want to get elected to serve are rarer than finding Eskimos in the desert. Selfless voters who vote to have genuine, well-meaning, service-oriented MLAs are equally rare. This is a perfect recipe for post-election political gravitation to other parties.
So how would the No-defection law work?
Local treatment will not work. Surgical procedures are needed. It would work on the basic principle which removes the concept of merger altogether from the body of law. Simply put no splinter group of any party will be allowed to “merge” with any other party.
Any MLA, singularly or in a group, on leaving the parent party ceases to be an MLA for that term and shall not be allowed to contest the ensuing by-elections.
Moreover, if an MLA decides to leave the party with 6 months or less left for the next Assembly elections, the concerned MLA will be barred from the next Assembly elections. This is to prevent MLAs from leaving their parties and joining the ruling party and becoming ministers without becoming MLAs for 6 months and then using the ministerial power and position to contest the next election on the new party ticket.
The Supreme Court and the parliament had both felt that the existing anti-defection law would work. It was brought with good intentions but torn to shreds.
The Supreme Court in the matter of Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu & others case of February 18, 1992, observed that it would strengthen parliamentary democracy by curbing unethical defections. It stated, “There is a real and imminent threat to the very fabric of Indian Democracy posed by the certain levels of political behaviors conspicuous by their utter and total disregard of well-recognized political proprieties and moralities. These trends tend to degrade the tone of political lies and in their wider propensities, are dangerous to and undermine the very survival of cherished values of democracies. There is a legislative determination through experimental Constitutional processes to combat that evil.”
However, that evil has still not been combated. The biggest deterrent, more than even a new law, is a change in the way people approach elections and link it with a quest for power alone. It is seen that in India, any law can be circumvented or diluted, or at least an attempt made thereof if there is a public sanction to democratically do wrongdoings.
So, people have to take the lead in this. As French leader Charles de Gaulle said, “Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”
Ultimately it falls back to the three words in our Constitution, three simple words which give us strength and hope – ‘We the people’.
India sincerely hopes that Prime Minster Modi will take the lead in bringing a no-defection law and leave a lasting legacy.