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Karnataka crisis: Can horse-trading be checked or should it be accepted as part of politics?

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The Karnataka Congress called a legislature party meeting Friday to address the issue of horse trading in the state and put up a show of strength. The Congress also warned that action would be taken against absentees.

This comes amid rumours of MLAs defecting to the opposition camp. The blame game between the BJP and the fragile JD(S)-Congress coalition continues, even as the BJP flew its 104 MLAs to a hotel in Gurugram.

ThePrint asks: Karnataka crisis: Can horse-trading be checked or should it be accepted as part of politics?

There should be zero tolerance for anybody who defects from a party

Rajeev Gowda
MP, Congress

Speakers should do the job that they are constitutionally assigned to do – to disqualify any member who leaves the party he/she is affiliated to and on whose ticket he/she was elected.

In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, we have had MLAs who left their parties and defected to the ruling party. However, the speakers there found a way to avoid disqualifying them. Some even became ministers. The anti-defection law was rendered toothless. Which means more will be encouraged to defect.

In our own state of Karnataka, when K.G. Bopaiah was the speaker and then-CM Yeddyurappa was indulging in Operation Kamala, there was a vote of confidence that he would have lost, had not the speaker disqualified a bunch of independent MLAs who were opposed to Yeddyurappa.

But this decision was later overturned as it was illegal. This example goes to show that even speakers may behave in a partisan manner and not adhere to their constitutional responsibility. Then people think they can get away with doing whatever they want.

Anyone who jumps ship is betraying the party and his/her voters. This should be taken up strictly by the party. There should be zero tolerance for anybody who defects.

A solution to horse-trading is giving voters the right to recall

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Horse trading has been a long-standing feature of Indian politics and that’s why we have the anti-defection law. But it is still part and parcel of the system.

In politics, there are politicians committed to certain ideals and philosophies, and there are politicians who are opportunistic. It is an ongoing problem with Indian politics that needs to be fixed. A solution can be the right to recall. When voters lose faith in the legislator, there should be an opportunity given to recall the legislator through a petition or re-election.

This reform will be possible if voters start clamouring for it, and only then will political parties respond.

Nothing prevents a political leader from quitting a party and joining another. There is nothing wrong in that. He/she will only win if people vote for him/her. The litmus test is the popular vote.

Anti-defection law does not have much teeth

Tanveer Ahmed
Spokesperson, JD(S)

Horse trading is part and parcel of Indian politics. Everybody has aspirations. Every person who fights an election wants to become an MLA; every MLA who wins thinks he is the ministerial candidate; and every minister thinks she has the capacity to be a better chief minister.

The aspiration of a person cannot be curbed. In the days to come, there will be more such horse trading taking place. The anti-defection law is not that fool proof. It does not have much teeth.

It is the duty of the voters to raise this issue. Voters don’t care what party you belong to if you do your job well. Look at former chief minister of Karnataka S. Bangarappa. There has been no party that he has not gone to. Yet, he has been elected unopposed several times.
Politicians shift their ideologies based on what they think is right.

Sometimes, speakers take decisions on defections based on their political allegiances

Sumanth C. Raman
Political Analyst

Very often the speaker takes a decision based on his/her party affiliations. We have recent examples from Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and even Tamil Nadu that show how the speaker’s decision functions when a politician defects. Some politicians have been disqualified if the speaker was on the other side of the fence and some have not.

Despite the S.R. Bommai judgment, we still don’t have a clear picture on when the court can intervene, what powers the speaker has, or what role he/she has.

If you do not define the rules, more and more MLAs will take advantage of the loopholes. And the speaker has to be transparent in his/her decision.

Parties should come down heavily on defectors because there are costs involved in retaining their loyalty.

Unfortunately, the voter has zero say on the MLA’s decisions. That is why the right to recall is a good idea. The sentiment that the voter is powerless until the next five years has to change.

Defection often used as a weapon by MLAs to force the party to give them plum postings

Rohini Swamy
Associate editor, ThePrint

The biggest problem in our democracy today is that the voters are helpless after electing their legislators. Politicians will keep jumping from one party to another for political benefits, but should the voters suffer? The anti-defection law has been rendered ineffective several times in the last few years.

And when the season to woo MLAs begins, Karnataka starts ‘resort politics’. Legislators are locked up in five-star hotels until they yield, be it to the party that wants them to defect or their parent party.

But it is high time that the political parties crack a whip on those who use ‘defection’ as a means to threaten their political higher-ups for plum ministries and postings. The decision by the Karnataka Congress to ensure that their MLAs fall in line by issuing a whip that all must attend the Congress legislature party meeting or they will be disqualified is a good way to keep members in check.

The Karnataka BJP, too, huddled their entire unit together in a resort in Gurugram.

Horse trading has become a weapon. But this weapon should not be used at the expense of the voters’ trust.

By Rohini Swamy, associate editor at ThePrint.

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  1. Horse trading CANNNOT be checked in an era when the very entry into politics is ONLY for amassing wealth. BUT, certainly the “Holier than thou” attitude by these very same parties is sheer HYPOCRISY. (only yesterday, the Congress was mocking the BJP for taking its MLAs to a resort. And today we see all of the Congress MLAs, MINUS the MISSING ones, desperately being herded into a resort). Congress should learn to talk less and DO more. But that is unlikely with Raga at the helm. He LEADS its Hot Air brigade by example.

  2. It is a fact that partisan Speakers – are there any other sort – have often nullified the clear provisions of the anti defection law. This would go against the doctrine of separation of powers but since disputes often land up in court, it would be a good idea for the powers presently with the Speaker to be exercised by a Division Bench of the High Court. 2. One would not favour an outright ban on legislators moving from one party to another or dismiss horse trading altogether. It may be unavoidable if the electorate renders a badly fractured verdict. However, flouting either the letter or the spirit of this well intentioned law to play constitutional mischief, sometimes with the help of the Governor, to disregard what is a fairly clear sense of the electorate or to topple a normally functioning government should carry a price in the people’s court. Our democracy should move to a higher moral plane at least on this count.

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