Anti-defection law in play

The BJP stopping short of the winning line in the Karnataka assembly has brought the anti-defection law into focus as the parties jostle with each other to cobble up numbers to form the government.

The BJP with 104 MLAs is tantalising close to the 112 mark needed to form the government with simple majority. The Congress with 78 and the JD (S) with 37 along with an independent, a Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janata Party and a Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs are a block of 118 leglators.

To form the government, the BJP will need little over half a dozen MLAs from the opposition camp. It can win a floor test even if these MLAs abstain from voting.

The anti-defection law is in place to deal with such situations to prevent “aaya ram gaya ram” syndrome of elected representatives switching sides for considerations. Under the 10th schedule of the constitution, also known as the anti-defection law, a merger with another party is valid only if it is backed by two-thirds of legislators.

A legislator is also considered to have defected either by voluntarily giving up membership of the party or disobeys the directives of the party on a vote. In other words, a legislator defying by abstaining or voting against the whip on any issue can be disqualified from the house.

According to PRS Legislative Research, 62 Lok Sabha MPs faced complaints under the anti-defection law in the last 24 years out of which 26 were disqualified. Four complaints against Rajya MPs – two each in 1989 and 2008 – were accepted. In the state legislatures, out of 268 complaints, 113 were accepted till 2004.  Ten disqualifications in the Lok Sabha were on the trust vote of July 2008 on the issue of India-US civil nuclear co-operation

Karnataka has seen defections in the past and the current hung house is a repeat of the situations witnessed before. In 2008, the BJP had emerged single largest party with 79 seats. The Congress with 65 and the JD (S) with 58 had joined hands to form the government. But JD (S) later switched sides and formed government with the BJP with a 20-month rotation arrangements for chief ministership from which he backed out after completing his duration.

In the polls the BJP won 112 falling short of majority by three. The gap was filled with defection of four JD (S) and three Congress MLAs.