Using illicit money to unlawfully purchase MLAs or MPs, or with other allurements, is a big danger to democracy
The state of Telangana is yet again abuzz with allegations of a conspiracy to poach elected legislators. The irony is that only players have changed and tables turned; the script remains the same.
In the latest episode, the ruling Telangana Rasthra Samithi (TRS) pulled off a sting in which four of its MLAs were alleged to have been approached by a godman and a businessman to shift to the BJP, ahead of the ongoing by-elections in Munugode constituency, which has become a prestige battle, whose verdict is being projected as a possible bellwether and indicator to next year Assembly elections.
Without a doubt, using illicit money to unlawfully lure and purchase MLAs or MPs, or with other allurements, including promises of posts or tickets, is a big danger to democracy. The TRS alleged in this case that each of the four MLAs, for an Assembly which has nearly finished four years of its five-year term, was being offered Rs 100 crores, besides other political assurances.
While investigations and due legal processes will determine whether these allegations are true or false, there is little doubt that since 2014, the movement of MLAs from one party to another in Telangana have hit new depths in India’s politics. The ruling TRS, which was more a movement than a party till it achieved its goal of getting Andhra Pradesh bifurcated and carving a separate Telangana, poached MLAs and MPs from almost all parties, including TDP, YSRC, BSP, and the Congress.
Even in the current controversy, three of the four MLAs the TRS claims were being lured by the BJP actually won on a Congress ticket.
Defections and horse trading have rocked Indian politics in different ways, on different scales in the past but the money power governing the politics of southern India is frightening, and is a serious breach and threat to democracy.
If political parties can procure legislators, en masse, like a commodity and make them shift loyalty with impunity, and the same money is used to influence the next elections, our entire system is vulnerable to a hijack at any point of time.
The anti-defection law must be modified in the face of this onslaught to ensure no one elected on one party ticket, or even as an Independent, can shift to another party or camp midway during their term, and a resignation must be compulsory. Speakers of different Houses must be compelled by law to immediately enforce this, beyond any partisan bias.
The power of money to buy either votes in an election, or subsequently change the loyalty of a legislator, poses grave security risks to the country and the entire edifice of democracy. In today’s world, when certain countries have reportedly influenced election campaigns and outcomes in other parts of the world, any legislative system with a “for sale” tag is a red rag for undue foreign influence.
The relatively better off economies of the southern states of India must become an asset to the Indian economy, cushioning the inequality of opportunities by offering jobs and better prospects to people from lesser developed pockets, but if the same creates a power inequality and tilt of influence based on money, we, as a nation, would be left worse off for their development.