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Tuesday, July 16, 2024, 10:50 am

Tuesday, July 16, 2024, 10:50 am

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Reducing the strength of the main opposition in Telangana.

Reducing the strength of the main opposition in Telangana.
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MLA M. Sanjay Kumar, from the Jagtial constituency in Telangana, has defected from the BRS to the ruling Congress, reducing the strength of the main opposition from 39 to 33 in the State Assembly. Several Indian states, particularly Telangana, have had huge defections since their formation in 2014. Telangana’s first Chief Minister, K. Chandrashekhar Rao of the BRS, won 63 of the 119 Assembly seats but faced opposition defections. Despite this, he was able to secure a majority of 90 MLAs and dissolve the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) State unit by the end of his first term in 2018.

The current case violates the 10th Schedule of India’s 1985 Anti Defection Law, which was revised in 2003 to allow for exceptions to disqualification if the defectors formed two-thirds of a party and merged with another. The Speaker of the Assembly and the Chair of the Council have absolute ability to exclude members without specifying a time restriction, making the statute ineffective. Gaddam Prasad Kumar, the ruling party’s Vikarabad MLA, now serves as the Telangana Assembly Speaker. Speakers, whether in the States or at the Centre, often prioritise their party’s agenda over promoting democratic principles.

Mr. Kumar’s defection has raised concern in the Congress, since it has slighted T. Jeevan Reddy, the candidate who lost the Jagtial Assembly seat. Mr. Reddy is now a Congress MLC. A. Revanth Reddy, Telangana Chief Minister, has been accused of attempted defections, including bribing a nominated member of the House, Elvis Stephenson, to vote for the TDP. These defections contradict the principles of participatory democracy, which emphasises the importance of a robust opposition to improve governance and prevent unilateral choices by the incumbent government.

Over the last decade, both New Delhi and Hyderabad have demonstrated the hazards of parties with overwhelming majorities. With a larger opposition at the Centre in 2024, it may be necessary to seek more changes to the anti-defection law. Establishing a deadline for Speakers and Chairpersons to make disqualification decisions may not suffice; instead, an impartial Election Commission should be in charge.

ABHISHEK VERMA


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