• Sanskriti IAS - अखिल मूर्ति के निर्देशन में

Defection a non-issue for voters

  • 5th July, 2022

(Mains GS 2 : Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure/ Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.)

Context:

  • A poor record on honesty and frequent switching of candidates from one political party to another (defection) hardly concerns Indian voters.
  • The reason simply is that a very large section of the electorate chooses the party and not the candidate during elections.

Getting work done:

  • One of the reasons why many legislators and parliamentarians defect to other parties for purely personal gains is that they know voters will not punish them for their actions and will support them if they contest election on the ticket of any “popular” political party. 
  • Similarly, many of them also know that it is the party’s ticket and the popularity of its leader that helps them win the election. 
  • What they are careful about is to keep themselves accessible to people and help them in getting their work done. 
  • When some voters decide to choose the candidate rather than the party during elections, the ability to get work done remains the biggest asset for the candidate, no matter how.

The anti defection law:

  • The anti-defection law was inserted in the Constitution in 1985 by the 52nd Amendment Act to combat the “evil of political defections”. 
  • The main purpose of the law was to preserve the stability of governments and insulate them from defections of legislators from the treasury benches.
  • It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
  • A legislator is deemed to have defected if he either voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or disobeys the directives of the party leadership on a vote.
  • This implies that a legislator defying (abstaining or voting against) the party whip on any issue can lose his membership of the House.
  • The decision on question as to disqualification on ground of defection is referred to the Chairman or the Speaker of such House, and his decision is final.

Party-centred voting:

  • The findings from the National Elections Studies conducted by Lokniti-CSDS indicate, during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 58% voters mentioned voting for the party while 33% said they voted for the candidate. 
  • The proportion of voters who voted for the party declined slightly to 52% during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections while 37% voters preferred voting for the candidate. 
  • This party-centred approach is prevalent amongst both uneducated as well as educated voters, amongst urban and rural voters and amongst voters with various degrees of media exposure. 
  • It is this strong trend of party-centred voting which neutralises any displeasure, if at all, that voters may have about their chosen representatives defecting and contesting again on a different party ticket.

Preference of vote:

  • Evidence from the National Election study indicates that the views of Indian voters are divided on what kind of representatives they would prefer to vote for. 
  • Many of them do not express strong reservations against candidates with tainted backgrounds or those involved in corrupt practices. 
  • While many are happy to vote for an honest but inaccessible candidate (48%), there are others (24%), who are happy to vote for a candidate who is corrupt but accessible.
  • Similarly, 36% voters are ready to vote for a candidate with criminal background, but get work done, while 35% are ready to vote for an honest candidate, but can’t get work done. 

Conclusion:

  • The anti-defection law has become detrimental to the functioning of our legislatures as deliberative bodies which hold the executive to account on behalf of citizens.
  • Thus Anti-defection laws need to be more rationalized which will help establish a truly representative democracy.
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