In Andhra, defection of MLAs is a for-profit decision, and TDP is the gainer

To understand politics in AP, follow the money
In Andhra, defection of MLAs is a for-profit decision, and TDP is the gainer
In Andhra, defection of MLAs is a for-profit decision, and TDP is the gainer
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By Pavan Korada

The defections from the YSRCP to the TDP in Andhra Pradesh (AP) prove that one and only one mantra drives politics in AP and is key to politics in the region: follow the money.

The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India has the following provision about disqualification of members of political parties in both the Parliament and state legislatures on the grounds of defection: ‘A member of a house belonging to any political party becomes disqualified for being a member of the House, if he voluntarily gives up his membership of such political party.’

It is clear that a member elected on a party ticket should continue in the party and obey the party’s directions. The only exception for disqualification on the grounds of defection is when a member goes out of his party as a result of a merger of the party with another party. A merger takes place when two-thirds of the members of the party have agreed to the merger.

Moreover, it must be noted that the provisions of the Tenth Schedule pertaining to exemption from disqualification in case of split by one-third members of the party’s legislature has been deleted by the 91st Amendment Act of 2003.  It means that defectors have no more protection on grounds of splits. 

With 20 defectors, the YSRCP’s strength in the assembly has come down from 67 to 46 (J. Nehru did not defect, but resigned). As there is no question of merger these defections are not clearly not covered by the exception clause of the anti-defection provisions mentioned in the Tenth Schedule and therefore questionable. 

Who is the deciding authority?

Any questions regarding the disqualification arising out of defection are to be decided by the presiding officer (the speaker in the case of the State Assembly) of the respective House. His decision is not final and is subject to judicial review on the grounds of mala fides, perversity, and so on.

The presiding officer of a House can make rules to give effect to the provisions of the Tenth Schedule. According to these rules, the presiding officer can take up a defection case only when he receives a complaint from a member of the House. Before taking a final decision, he must give the member, against whom the complaint has been made, a chance to submit his explanation. He may also refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges for inquiry. Hence, defection has no immediate and automatic effect. 

Intent of the law

The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which embodies the anti-defection law, is designed to prevent the evil or mischief of political defections motivated by the lure of office or material benefits or other such considerations. The contention is that the vesting of adjudicatory powers in the presiding officer is by itself invalid on the ground of political bias.

But this contention was rejected by the Supreme Court in the Kihoto Hollohan case. And considering what happened in Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, in blatant violation of the anti-defection law, the act clearly isn't working. 

These defections point to the general bankruptcy of political ideology in the state’s political culture. The genesis of this disturbing culture dates back to 1995 when Chandrababu Naidu, then the Finance Minister in his father-in-law NTR’s government, came to power by backstabbing him with a close coterie comprising NTR’s other son-in-law and his two sons Harikrishna and Balakrishna. 

Within three months of coming into power, he published a series of white papers bringing in de-regulation and privatisation in various key sectors similar to a paper on AP brought out by the World Bank during the same time. AP, in this sense, thus became the first and most advanced state in terms of implementing the neoliberal agenda of the World Bank. 

Neo-liberal trajectory

The idea at the root of neoliberalism is minimum regulation of the markets by the governments and a free reign to private businesses. The logic of wealth creation in neoliberalism is a gush-up of wealth initially followed by a trickle-down. And going by what has happened, the massive wealth inequalities in the USA and other Western countries, and the global economic meltdown, trickle-down economics has proven to be a farce. Neoliberalism, through the Bretton Woods system, has and is creating a world in its own image and thanks to Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra Pradesh is on this fast track. 

Moreover, the contention that globalisation of this finance capital would ultimately subsume all varieties of differences like race, ethnicity and caste, in India’s case, seems to be true in Andhra Pradesh. This explains why MLAs from the YSRCP, which is a predominantly Reddy party, are defecting to TDP, which is predominantly Kamma.

Most of the defectors from both parties are big businessmen looking to making profits. Neoliberalism and the globalisation of finance capital is indeed creating a new society in which politics bereft of welfare and sympathy and dominated by competition and profits thrive.

With about 33,000 lakh acres of plush farmlands in the Krishna-Godavari delta procured, through the dicey land acquisition/pooling by the government for the new capital, ironically named ‘people’s capital’, at Amaravati, it is a land speculator’s paradise.

With so much money involved and allegations of ‘horse-trading’, these defections, in blatant violation of the anti-defection law, make one thing obvious: these businessmen from all parties, and under the populist rhetoric of ‘development’, want to hop onto the money train leading to Amaravati. 

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