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3-min read

Four TDP Lawmakers Switch to BJP; How This Does Not Violate Provisions of Anti-Defection Law

The brilliance of the merger move lies in the fact that it managed to avoid the penalties under the anti-defection law.

Aditya Sharma | News18.com@aditya_shz

Updated:June 20, 2019, 7:45 PM IST
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Four TDP Lawmakers Switch to BJP; How This Does Not Violate Provisions of Anti-Defection Law
TDP Rajya Sabha MPs Y Sujana Chowdary (2nd L), TG Venkatesh and CM Ramesh join BJP in the presence of party's Working President JP Nadda (C) and party's senior leader BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav (L), in New Delhi, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary)

New Delhi: Former Andhra Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party (TDP) plunged into a political crisis on Thursday after four out of its six Rajya Sabha members joined the BJP.

The four MPs, YS Chowdary, CM Ramesh, Garikapati Mohan Rao and TG Venkatesh, submitted a letter to Rajya Sabha chairman and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu seeking that they should be recognised as a separate group.

While the move has deepened the TDP's crisis after it lost 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats, and 151 out of 175 Assembly seats to Jaganmohan Reddy's YSRCP, it has given the ruling BJP a major boost in the Upper House of the Parliament.

The brilliance of the merger move lies in the fact that it managed to avoid the penalties under the anti-defection law.

News18 explains the anti-defection law and what this move means for the BJP.

What is Defection?

Listed under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, the Anti-defection law was introduced by 52nd Amendment in 1985 during the tenure of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The law defines defection as "to abandon a position or association, often to join an opposing group which essentially describes a situation when a member of a particular party abandons his loyalty towards that party and provide his support (in the form of his vote or otherwise) to another party”

Need for Anti-defection Act

During the formulation of the Constitution of India, there was no mention of political parties and their existence, let alone defection.

It wasn't until the 1967 elections that things changed when the country evolved into a multiparty democracy. This was the beginning of the coalition era.

Between 1967 and 1971, close to 142 MPs and over 1,900 MLAs defected to other parties. It was during this period that the Hindi expression "Aaya Ram Gaya Ram" became popular when a Haryana MLA changed his party thrice in one day.

However, it took 17 years for the issue of defection to be addressed in the Parliament in 1985.

Conditions of Disqualification Under Anti-defection Act

The Act states that a member of a political party may be disqualified primarily on two grounds mentioned under the fourth paragraph of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.

One, if the member voluntarily resigns from the party or disobeys the directives of the party on a leadership vote. Two, if the member votes or abstains from voting as per the party's whip and without prior permission.

However, the Act also states that it will not be considered a defection under law if a complete political party merges with another political party, if a new party is created by the elected members of another, if the party members don’t accept the merger between the two parties and opt to perform as a separate group.

91st Amendment Act, 2003

The law before the 91st Amendment Act, 2003 defined defection by one-third of the elected members of a political party as a 'merger'. A merger avoided the penalty of disqualification under the Act.

However, the 2003 Amendment changed this by positing that at least two-thirds of the members of a party must be in favour of a merger to gain validity before the law.

The Amendment also made it mandatory for all defectors to resign from their legislative membership and seek a re-election in the House.

What the defection of four TDP MP's means?

With four TDP MP's defecting to the BJP, the saffron party has managed to increase its tally in the Rajya Sabha to 77.

The TDP has eight MPs of which six are members of the Rajya Sabha and the rest of the Lok Sabha. The four members migrating to the BJP is defection by two third of its elected members. Thus, the move is an act of merger and the MP's will face no disqualification over it under the Anti-defection Act.

The defection assumes significance for the BJP given that it is expected to attain a majority of 124 seats in the House by 2021. However, this depends on how the Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand play out. Besides, the moves also gives the BJP a toehold in another southern state besides Karnataka.

Currently, the BJP led-NDA now has 102 members in the 245 seat Rajya Sabha out of which the BJP has 73 MPs. The Congress led-UPA has 101 seats with the Congress at 50.

The BJP now awaits the largest attrition drive in the Rajya Sabha in 2020 when 72 members will retire.

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