Gaddi Aur Gaddari
By Poonam I Kaushish
A sense of de ja vu overwhelms. Reinforced by the revolving door politics in five States going to polls next month last fortnight whereby turncoats are the flavour of the season. Attracting and accepting legislators seems to be the easiest and fastest strategy to come to power to the exclusion of ideological and ethical considerations. After all, in these artificially made alignments, we are persuaded to believe that ends justify means whereby defection is the new black of political morality.
Underscored by UP’s pre-election tamasha where every Party is facing turbulence. If Samajwadi’s Akhilesh Yadav can boast of having pulled off a minor coup by bagging three veteran BJP OBC Ministers and 8 MLA’s, BJP has also won over a fair share of BSP and SP leaders. In Uttarakhand, honours are even with BJP and Congress trading top leaders.
In Punjab, Parties are plummeted by defections even as Congress, AAP and Akalis retain most sitting MLAs to prevent more defecting. In Goa the pendulum swings all ways as Congress, BJP, TMC and AAP witness turncoats knock and leave at frequent intervals. In Manipur exits are primarily from Congress and many top BJP netas have a Congress past.
In fact, Parties love to poach “available and willing” leaders, depending on the price. Worse, with various types of chameleons crossing Party floors one doesn’t know who is sleeping with whom and who is jumping from one bed to another, as friends and enemies are all rolled into one.
The issue is not these States, but raises a larger question: Are they symptomatic of today’s polity? Remember last year West Bengal and Puducherry were plagued by defections, while 2020 stands testimony to brazen horse-trading with senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia along-with 22 loyalist MLAs joining BJP resulting in Kamal Nath’s Government downfall and coronation of Shivraj Chauhan’s as Chief Minister.
Ditto in Karnataka 2019 when 15 Congress-JD(S) MLAs switched to BJP, kicked out Kumaraswamy’s Government and installed Yediruppa’s Sarkar. Notwithstanding, fundamentally violating the democratic principle: Voters’ rights to choose their Governments via the ballot box.
Reminiscent of 1967 Aya Ram Gaya Ram culture when Gaya Lal a Haryana Independent MLA switched three Parties in 15 days. Followed by Bhajan Lal who hijacked his Janata Party Government to Congress, thereby opening the floodgates of defection and institutionalizing it through Indira Gandhi’s 60s-80s.
During 1967-1983 Parliament saw 162 defections and State Assemblies 2,700 with 212 defectors rewarded as Ministers and 15 became Chief Ministers, according to PRS Legislative Research. Several of them did so more than once, some even five times. One MLA defected five times to be a Minister for only five days.
Alas, this kind of politricking is all encompassing. Whereby, once we peel off our netagan’s mask one comes face to face with Aya Rams and Gaya Rams all rolled into one to fulfill their lust for power and money, making it abundantly clear that they have no strong single-Party preference and are willing to switch sides to the highest bidder. Their purchasing price is governed by the law of diminishing returns. Elucidated by JMM’s Suraj Mandal in the Lok Sabha 1993, “Paisa boriyoin mein atta hai!”
More. Politicians girgit-like transfer loyalties from one Party to another based on winnability. The modus operandi: Paisa and satta bargains are struck, depending on the value of legislators, who switch sides. All, with clinical precision devoid of pretensions, of ‘meeting of minds’, ideology, principles or personal fondness.
Patronage, opportunism and a share of the power pie is the glue that keeps the swarm of hoppers together with its new benefactors and makes incongruent Parties come together whereby poaching of legislators is extolled as smart political management: money for allurement, use of State machinery for intimidation etc are commended as resourcefulness.
Succinctly, these paper tigers who sell their political soul to the highest bidder in this political nautanki are dubbed as survivors not defectors. Paraded as prized bulls and portrayed as safedi ki chamkan compared to their chor brethren who are unfit to rule, leave alone provide good and honest governance. The winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all guilt and criminality.
Bringing things to such a pass where every Party and its leaders have perfected the art of beguiling its hum zulfs and dushmans with aplomb, saddling us with opportunists and liars. Exposing the disdain with which our political class holds democracy and the aam aadmi.
Thereby, exposing politics of the worst kind, cultivating low morality and high greed, donning different Party robes, according to their whims and fancies — and the need of the hour. A power-play when personality-oriented malicious vilification seems to have became the hallmark of democracy. Sans shared ideology and mutual objectives. This pithily is aaj ki rajneeti.
Alas, so caught up in the verbose of one-upmanship are all that none stops to think and ponder the implications of their actions. The tragedy of it all is that in this winner take-all-fight governance and people go for a toss. Satta batoan aur tamasha dekho! What matters is only the end game: Gaddi.
Questionably, is defection a Constitutional sin? Yes, averred the Supreme Court in Uttarakhand Chief Minister Rawat’s case 2017. Whereby, it underscored that “unholy treacheries are masked as tacit mergers or wholesale defections.” But are Constitutionally accepted thanks to political compulsions, politics of convenience and opportunism facilitating them.
Thus, in this game of lies, deceit and deception, BJP, Congress and regional outfits reflect the emerging truth of today’s India. Power is all. Arguably, one can say this is what democracy is about. If arch enemies are willing to align with each other, then why have elections at all? Ideally, all should grasp the reality of parliamentary democracy.
Sure, one can quibble that elections are won by Parties not individuals. In this market model of democracy it is a misnomer to believe that Parties are governed by ideology. Instead, there is a tendency to capture the imagination of the people by creating a spectacle alongside money which makes the clogged, polluted and corrupt political mare go around.
Questionably, in a milieu where defections undermine the foundations of democracy and where ‘stable’ Governments are formed through barefaced political immorality, no Party can claim the high moral ground. Instead such behaviour is commended as a sign of political ambition than censured as opportunism. In this process, our leaders forget that they leave behind a toxic residue of hatred long after polls are over.
In this immoral political desert and barren discourse, voters have to make tough calls. No longer can we merely shrug our shoulders and dismiss it as political kalyug. Our polity must desist from employing their individual meanness in the name of public good. They need to re-think their priorities and desist from destructive mindlessness. The ‘Conduct of Politics’ necessitates reliability, integrity, credibility, conviction and courage. As nothing costs a nation more than cheap politicians! — INFA