Jagan promised a difference. But why is poaching rampant?

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In a major setback to the Telugu Desam Party, former Minister and party senior leader Sidda Raghava Rao joined the YSRCP in the presence of Chief Minister and YSRCP president Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy at his camp office. He joins the list of exodus of TDP leaders to the YSRCP. Earlier, three TDP MLAs — Vallabhaneni Vamsi, Maddali Giri and Karanam Balaram — met Jagan at his camp office in Tadepalli recently.

Political observers claimed that Jagan is threatening the opposition party leaders with police cases as a pressure tactic to arm-twist them to join the YSRCP. Analysts view the defections as mere political opportunism. Defections are no more a pre-election phenomenon in this age of falling democratic values.

The YSRCP is either using force  or luring the TDP leaders with money as a part of its big game plan to remove or weaken the opposition TDP. What’s happening here is the plain assertion of power.  What is the YSRCP worried about when it enjoys an absolute strength in the House with 151 seats in the 175-member Assembly? Probably, Jagan continues to fear that Naidu can make a comeback in the next General Elections.

The fragile TDP is struggling to keep its flock together even as there is a buzz that at least three more MLAs were ready to flee to the YSRCP. Despite the poaching by the YSRCP underway, the TDP says it’s confident that the current crisis is temporary. “TDP is a cadre based party, it had witnessed several ups and downs since its formation, and the present crisis would also be overcome. TDP is a political university with a capacity to create 100 new leaders for every single dropout or deserter. The TDP is a workshop that gives shape to good leaders,” Naidu ascertained.

Critics say that even Naidu used the same strategy to break the YSRCP. After winning the 2019 elections, Jagan recalled how Naidu had allegedly purchased 23 MLAs and three MPs of YSRCP like cattle and said he will not repeat Naidu. “There should be some difference. I am not Naidu to take MLAs from the Opposition without respecting the anti-defection law,” Jagan had stated. However, Jagan instead of focussing on development of the virgin state like Andhra Pradesh seems to be busy poaching TDP leaders.

Law does not prohibit defections but says individual members would incur a disqualification on defection. Naidu had alleged that Jagan lured one TDP MLA with financial benefits and another MLA with mining leases and business concessions. TDP MLCs were being lured with financial benefits and being threatened to shift loyalties, to the proportion never seen before.
“This is totally contrary to the CM’s statement in the Assembly that if anybody was taken from TDP, they would be first made to resign from their posts. YSRCP should explain why it has not asked the three MLAs and two MLCs to resign. The CM should explain why it has not disqualified the defected MLAs and MLCs,” he added.

While the Constitution prohibits ‘defections’. However, politics of opportunity and deception facilitate them. The infamous ‘Aya Rams and Gaya Rams’ of the 70s and horse-trading is back with a vengeance. Take the case of Vallabhineni Vamsi. The Gannavaram MLA declared his support for the ruling party. TDP had suspended Vamsi. But Jagan made it clear that to join the YSRCP, Vamsi should first resign as Gannavaram MLA which he hasn’t for obvious reasons. Assembly Speaker Tammineni Sitharam considered him as a special member in the House making it clear that the Speakers and Chairmen of Councils will serve their political parties and act if only their actions suit their outfits. We have seen the ruling party purchase 23 MLAs like sheep in the market. We have seen the leader of the House (chief minister) make four of them ministers. We have seen the speaker not disqualifying those MLAs. Democracy killed. That will not happen in my term as leader of the House. If any such MLA defects from one party to the other, you (Speaker) can disqualify such an MLA,” Jagan was quoted as saying in The Times Of India. Why wasn’t Vamsi disqualified, then? Political bias cannot lead to any legal action because of glaring loopholes and limitations that render the anti-defection law toothless in the Indian political system. The anti-defection law appears to be in need of some urgent surgical treatment through amendments in the Constitution. There is an urgent need to give some teeth to The Tenth  Schedule to avert undemocratic practices adopted by any political outfit be it the YSRCP, TDP, TRS or the BJP.

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