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HVK Archives: Legislation contemplated to make political parties sweet

Legislation contemplated to make political parties sweet - The Observer

Observer Political Bureau ()
5 November 1997

Title: Legislation contemplated to make political parties sweet sorrow
(Part I of II)
Author: Observer Political Bureau
Publication: The Observer
Date: November 5, 1997

'Piece-meal approach won't do'

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Atal Behari Vajpayee on Tuesday said that
there was need for a comprehensive anti-defection law as the present law
had too many flaws and the issue was "too serious to be subjected to
piece-meal approach and partisan interests."

In a statement on the proposed all-party meeting on the issue to be held on
November 10, he said that there were several serious questions which needed
to be addressed before any changes were made in the existing law.

He said defections could not be seen in isolation and they had to be seen
in the overall context of parliamentary practices as they exist today.

"When the independence of a legislator is sought to be undermined by an
unscrupulous Governor at the bidding of scheming politicians with malafide
intentions, then parliamentary democracy cannot be expected to move along
laid down conventions and laws. We have also to bear in mind that the
loyalty of legislators cannot be taken for granted. If Congress MLAs walked
out of the party in Uttar Pradesh, they did so because they did not want to
be used as pawns in an individual's gambit for grabbing power by any
means," he said.

Mr Vajpayee said that the sudden interest in the anti-defection law was
obviously prompted by the developments in UP, where nearly all Congress
MLAs had walked out of the parent party, as had their Janata Dal counterparts.

He said that had the Kalyan Singh Government in UP been dismissed and
President's rule imposed or the Congress managed to somehow manoeuvre
itself into power, "none of the worthies who are today so vocal in
demanding amendments to the anti-defection law would have uttered a word."

He said that ever since the Anti-defection Bill was introduced during the
time of Rajiv Gandhi, the BJP had maintained that the law was flawed on two

First, it sought to put a premium on mass defection (if one legislator
switches sides, he commits a crime, but if there are others with him, it is

Second, it imposed unacceptable fetters on legislators during a vote in the

"We have borrowed our system from Britain, but we have ignored the fact
that a British MP is not disqualified merely for violating a party whip or
for switching sides," he said.

Mr Vajpayee said that if the law was amended so that any legislator who
quit his party also lost his House membership, several issues could be
taken care of.

The legislator must contest a by-election and return to the House.

As for the provision linking a party whip to a legislator's unseating from
the House, its scope should be limited to voting on a no-confidence or
confidence motion and on bills and motions that could bring down a Government.

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