July 1, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the anti-defection law has been useful in Indian politics. We also look at flood-resistant homes in Assam, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Anti-Defection Law – Has It Achieved Anything?
The eye of a hurricane is usually seen as calm. That’s not the case in Maharashtra. The ruling coalition government is on the verge of collapse. Uddhav Thackeray resigned as Chief Minister, and it looks like the BJP could be back in power.
The entire saga has once against brought to the forefront the issue of political defections and resort politics. As a faction led by Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde decided to exit, it looked like that was the final nail in the coffin. In Indian electoral politics, the anti-defection law doesn’t get much attention. Definitely not as much as the actual act of defection by legislators. But is this law redundant? Or can it be strengthened?
No time like the present to discuss the anti-defection law, given what’s happening in Maharashtra. Before we delve into the law, let’s see how things unravelled in the state.
On June 21, Thackeray called an emergency meeting of all Shiv Sena MLAs after suspected cross-voting in the Legislative Council elections. Absent was minister Eknath Shinde and 11 MLAs. Reports came in from Surat that about a dozen legislators from Maharashtra were staying at the Le Meridian hotel. Later, Shinde decided to break his silence. By now, he was no longer the party’s legislative group leader. He spoke about not betraying Balasaheb’s teachings for power.
What followed was a flurry of meetings between the Sena, Congress, and the NCP. Some of the rebel MLAs flew to Guwahati. On arrival, Shinde claimed he had the support of 40 MLAs, more than the number required to back the anti-defection law. The political battle reached the Supreme Court. A floor test was proposed by the Maharashtra Governor, something the Sena didn’t want. When the court refused to stay the Governor’s request, Thackeray decided to resign.
Coalition governments are built on somewhat shaky ground. For some legislators, it might be too stifling. The option then, instead of resignation, is to rebel and switch sides. One example happened after the 1967 elections. 142 MPs switched their respective political parties. So came the need for an anti-defection law to prevent this. In 1985, the Tenth Schedule of the 52nd amendment to the Constitution was passed. It stated, “The evil of political defections has become a matter of national concern.” It applies to both Parliament and the state legislatures.
In 2003, a change was proposed to make the legislation more effective. It dealt with the exemption provided by authorising a break that was being violated. It resulted in several splits in different political parties. The courts have had their say on the law. In Kihoto Hollohon v. Zachilhu and Others, it was decided that the Tenth Schedule was constitutionally valid.
But given the instances of defections over the years, has the law served its purpose? Is strengthening it the way forward?
VIEW: Reform, not revolution
Seeing how fragile a coalition government can be, there needs to be some mechanism to provide a sense of stability to the government. For leaders who care about loyalty, the law ensures legislators have some to their own party. Representatives of the House and Legislative Assemblies are supposed to serve the citizens of their constituents. Defections are mainly for personal and political benefit.
There’s a case to reform the law rather than scrapping it entirely. The example of AIADMK MLAs revolting against Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami in 2017 is an example. They met with the Governor to seek a constitutional process based on the precedent set by BJP rebels in Karnataka in 2010. At the time, the Supreme Court set aside the Karnataka rebel’s disqualification. To escape this, some members resign. Defection through resignation became a thing. The law can be amended to shift the adjudicatory power from the Speaker to another credible authority.
There are loopholes, and they can be fixed. As it stands, the law doesn’t allow any separate group to be formed out of a political party to form an alternative government with the help of another party. As P.D.T. Achary, former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha stated, the law on defection is indispensable in a country like India. Politicians will always look for loopholes. The law needs to be tightened.
COUNTERVIEW: Not served its purpose
One only needs to look at the past few years to see just how common political defections have become. What use is an anti-defection law if it doesn’t achieve its stated goal? The law empowers political parties to force their views on MPs elected on their ticket and mandate. If you’re an MP and disagree or don’t tow the party line strictly, you could lose your seat in the legislature.
The purpose of the law is to bring stability. There’s merit in it if it was limited to votes to decide a government’s fate. But the law allows political parties to disqualify legislators for voting against the party line. It’s also applicable to Rajya Sabha MPs who have no mandate to vote out a government. Chakshu Roy from PRS Legislative Research wrote on the fallout of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Speaker’s decision concerning anti-defection come under judicial review. Most of them are challenged in court and lie forgotten.
The fundamental flaw goes back to its conception. It attempts to solve a political issue through legal means. Defections are as much a result of a lack of inner-party discipline as they are of power-hungry legislators. What about reforms? They won’t work. For example, Parliament can amend the law to prevent political parties from accepting defecting MLAs. Now, no party would accept this. Defections are a political problem, not a legal one.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The anti-defection law can be strengthened and needs to continue.
b) The anti-defection law has failed to serve its purpose and should be scrapped.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Zubair Or Udaipur – Under Modi, India Has Entered Era Of Total Politics
For the Left:
Mann Ki Baat: Punjab Is Not Delhi; AAP Will Have To Go Beyond Freebie Culture
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Sops for data centres (Uttar Pradesh) – The state cabinet approved the scheme for financial incentives to establish data centres. It was introduced under the UP Data Centre Policy-2021 to attract companies to set up data centres. The scheme will be implemented in various cities and not limited to Noida. It also includes the government working with the ministry of road transport to construct railway overbridges and underpasses.
Why it matters: Currently, work is underway to set up four data centre parks with an investment of ₹15,950 crores. Among the investors is Adani Enterprises Ltd. These will provide employment to about 4,000 people. The Hiranandani Group’s first institute will be ready in July, and commercial operations beginning in September.
Tackling cancer (Andhra Pradesh) – As the state has a high number of cancer cases, the state government has implemented the ‘Healthy State’ programme to compensate for the lack of good hospitals post-bifurcation. The 200-bed cancer hospital in Kurnool has been upgraded with advanced radiation, medical, and surgical equipment. The government is setting up three apex centres and connecting with old and new medical colleges.
Why it matters: The cancer screening rate in the state is less than 5%. A study by the US-based Health Effect Institute (HEI) projected the state will see a 132% increase in cancer patients by 2030. By the end of this year, the state could have more than 1.5 lakh patients. The state health department has begun training more than 8,300 Middle-Level Health Providers and more than 2,600 Medical Officers.
Irrigation and water harvesting schemes (Jharkhand) – The state government plans to complete one lakh small irrigation, water harvesting, and groundwater recharge projects in the current financial year. It has already completed more than 1.4 lakh schemes in 2021-22 under the Nilambar-Pitambar Jal Samridhi Yojana. The government has set a target of 99,345 schemes for FY2 2022-23. These schemes are covered under the MGNREGA.
Why it matters: The schemes will help increase the groundwater level and help in irrigation. In 2021-22, a little over 73,000 trench-cum-bund and 60,280 field bund projects were completed. Last fiscal, the highest number of trench-cum-bunds were constructed in the Giridih district. Till June 2022, about 7,500 trench-cum-bund and 6,689 field bund schemes have been completed.
Reporting objectionable posts (Gujarat) – The cyber cell of the Gujarat police issued an alert advising the public to inform cops of any objectionable social media posts on religion. The police first set up a WhatsApp number after the murder of Kishan Bharwad, who was killed by two men on a motorcycle for his alleged posts hurting religious sentiments. Since then, the police have received more than 1,000 complaints. Twitter and Instagram were also notified.
Why it matters: The alert comes two days ahead of the Rath Yatra and in the wake of the murder of a tailor in Udaipur. He was murdered by two men for a social media post supporting Nupur Sharma, who made controversial remarks about the Prophet. After Bharwad’s killing, there was an increase in sensitive posts about Sharma’s comments.
Flood-resistant homes (Assam) – With the devastating frequency of floods in the state and region, it’s important to implement measures and have the infrastructure in place that mitigates deaths and damage to property. A Japan-based company, Ichijo Komuten, has found a solution with a unique home that’s said to be waterproof. It’s connected by thick iron rods and cables to the ground which lifts the house when floodwater rises. It also has special plumbing that stops water from entering the house.
Why it matters: If a state like Assam could adopt this exact technology or something similar, it could save people’s lives and help in relief efforts. The extent to which this type of house can be installed in Assam remains to be seen and only engineers would be able to provide a definitive answer.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
$50 billion – The projected value of India’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) industry by the end of 2030. In 2021, $4.8 billion in venture capital was invested, three times as much as in 2020. It has helped new unicorns emerge in the industry.