Defections not new in India but frequency is now astounding!

Rohit Chandavarkar
Friday, 26 April 2019

In 1967 itself, out of 3,450 legislatures elected to various assemblies in the country 320 were seen defecting and crossing over to some other party. So the number of defectors as early as 1967 was close to 10% of the total elected leaders. Hence, defections are old phenomena in India. However, what has changed over the years is that the reasons behind defections have now become very personal and selfish instead of being related to principles and defections have become blatant.

In the age of 24/7 news breaks and media looking for sensational masala, no other news sells like the story of defection of a high profile face of a national political party and in the past few days, India has seen some very media savvy political faces suddenly coming before the cameras and announcing their exit from a particular party and entry into another one.

Actor turned BJPs former Union minister and senior party face Shatrughan Sinha announced his joining the Congress Party over a week ago. This was followed by high profile Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi’s announcement that she is joining Shiv Sena and latest was BJP Delhi MP Udit Raj’s announcement of joining the Congress Party. In the past few years and months, rights from BJP leader Kirti Azad and leader Gaurav Bhatia to Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan, literally dozens of high profile leaders have been seen crossing over from one party to another.

These moves have been ridiculed by the public on social media and people generally seem astonished to see how a person working as the national spokesperson of one party and seen defending that party on national television over the years, can suddenly change sides and speak on behalf of the rival party from the very next day. Be that as it may, the fact is defections are not at all new in India.

Defections have been seen happening in India since the 1967 polls when political uncertainty started setting in over the Congress Party’’s dominance over India’s politics. The phrase “AayaRam GayaRam got coined in media lingo when Haryana MLA Gaya Lal changed his party three times in two days in 1967. In 1967 itself, out of the 3,450 legislatures elected to various assemblies in the country, 320 were seen defecting and crossing over to some other party. So the number of defectors as early as 1967 was close to 10% of the total elected leaders. In a span of just three years after that in West Bengal, 269 leaders in Uttar Pradesh 294 leaders and in Gujarat 142 leaders were seen defecting. Hence, defections have been seen for over 40 years in the country.

But what has changed over the years is that the reasons behind defections have become very personal and selfish instead of being related to principles and the defections have become more blatant and frequent.  

Students of political history would know that illustrious leaders like Morarji Desai and Jayprakash Narayan were once upon a time known as those who left the Congress Party to challenge it. But it was not out of a selfish motive or because of denial of a party ticket, it was in the basis of principle.

The Tenth schedule was inserted in India’’s constitution in 1985 when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. This was designed to block unscrupulous defections by members of a legislature for personal gains and the anti-defection law worked well to block this activity but this is effective only for those who have got elected and work as legislators in the house. Unfortunately, no such restrictions can be put on leaders who are only party office-bearers and remain free to cross over to a political outfit which subscribes to the opposite ideology just overnight!

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