Eduardo to move bill to ban defections

| 15 November 2000 22:50 IST

Eduardo Faleiro, Goa's Congress MP and former union minister, is planning to move a bill to amend the tenth schedule of the Constitution of India in this session of the Parliament, banning defections in small states.

The amendment proposes that any legislator who wants to change the party has to vacate his seat and pave way for the by-election, while seeking re-election. "I will restrict it to only small states having not more than 90 Assembly seats", says Faleiro.

Small states like Goa has made a mockery of the anti-defection act, which was brought into force to bar floor-crossing while allowing a democratic split only if one third members of any legislator party wish to separate.

But this has provided free hand to Goa's legislators, as well as several other small states, to split even with two or three members as the small number of Assembly seats makes it very easy to cross over.

Goa, for example, has only 40 benches in the House, having a party of even two or three members. In fact one party - the United Goans Democratic Party - has vanished from the House as both its members joined the Congress soon after Assembly polls last year.

On the other hand, the Congress rose to 26 from 21 by engineering two defections within three months after June elections while it is reduced to mere five today as it split three times. Ten of its members have today joined the ruling BJP, which was actually elected as the main opposition with only ten legislators.

While Goa has witnessed three governments in 11 months, two more Assemblies in the past which also witnessed two tenures of the President's rule due to instability brought 10 governments to power in nine years.

In fact there is no party left here which has not split or has admitted defectors into its fold. The defectors were just not simple MLAs, but even the speaker, the opposition leader and many of them holding ministerial positions have split, to get lucrative portfolios.

"Defections do not take place on the basis of principles or against autocracy etc, it is purely greed for money", quips Faleiro. He plans to move the amendment now without even waiting for the Congress Parliamentary Party to approve it.

"The irony is that a person like Ramakant Khalap, who as the union law minister was put on a job to amend the anti-defection act, has defected twice since June last", points out Dr Wilfred de Souza, the sole NCP legislator, "moving from his regional party to the Congress to the BJP today".

As the Congress is not reacting to the series of splits within its party, Dr de Souza has now filed disqualification petitions against four ministers including deputy chief minister Ravi Naik, who split from the Congress and merged its group into the BJP within 24 hours. Even Dr de Souza has been the CM twice by defecting from the Congress.

There are three more Congress splinter groups left out now, including leaderless Congress (Shaikh Hassan) and Congress (Venkatesh Desai) comprising of three MLAs. Both the leaders - Hassan and Desai - are already in the BJP.

Manohar Parrikar, the BJP chief minister, finds nothing unethical in it. "These splits are fully within the framework of the anti-defection act", he states. He however does not object to total ban on defections, provided the MLAs are allowed to cross-vote on all the issues, except the financial bills and the no-confidence motion, in order to avoid dictatorship.

"The problem lies not only in the loopholes of the act but the changing face of Indian politics. It has become a pure business today where power is sold and purchased in the market of politics while defections has become a TV serial", comments Dr Peter de Souza, HoD of Political Science at the Goa University.

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