It’s election season in Andhra Pradesh, but in an interesting phenomenon, the state is seeing a spike in defections, with politicians jumping to and from the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the opposition YSR Congress Party (YSRCP). In just the last month, as many as six significant faces have jumped ship to opposition parties. TDP MPs Avanthi Srinivasa Rao and P Ravindra Babu, and MLA Amanchi Krishna Mohan have joined the YSRCP citing corruption, nepotism and caste bias as the reasons.
Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Killi Kruparani recently met YSRCP chief Jaganmohan Reddy to join the YSRCP. Prominent Congress politicians such as Kishore Chandra Deo and Kotla Surya Prakash Reddy are also reportedly set to join the TDP this month. TDP MLA and former Minister Ravela Kishore Babu and BJP MLA Akula Satyanarayana moved to Pawan Kalyan's Jana Sena Party a few months ago.
Defections in Andhra are quite common and across the board. Between 2014 and 2019, at least 22 YSRCP MLAs defected to the TDP — something that Jagan has labelled ‘encouraged defections’ by Chief Minister and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu.
While politicians may state different reasons for defecting, observers say that it only reflects that they are power hungry and secure only their interests.
Dr Sreepati Ramudu, Professor at the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) at the University of Hyderabad, said that defections are not a new practice and nor is it confined to one political party in Andhra Pradesh.
“Defections ahead of elections are taking place in two contexts — one is when there is a threat to his or her seat, and the other is when they see potential anti-incumbency,” he said.
“In the past, politicians — irrespective of whether they won or lost — stuck to one party and abided by the party’s ideology. Now, people are defecting for personal interests and are mixing business with politics, which is quite undesirable".
Sreepati also pointed out that there is a dire need to amend the Anti-Defection Law, which ensures “'stipulated, time-bound" action against defectors by the Speaker.
“The main objective of defections is nothing but accommodating themselves on political platforms for their own self-interest,” said senior political commentator and journalist Telakapalli Ravi.
Ravi says that along with a dearth of opportunities in the party they belong to, many may also be jumping ship to the YSRCP because of schemes announced by Jagan.
Political observers say that several politicians in Andhra are also businessmen who either directly hold a stake in companies or have a conflict of interest as their friends, aides or families run businesses.
The shuffle is largely seen as a cosmetic affair, mostly to serve the interests of the legislators in the state whose political class consists of industrialists and businessmen. Firms of a few legislators and leaders of the ruling TDP have also been raided by central agencies.
However, another senior political commentator and journalist K Nageshwar says otherwise and believes business interests is not the only reason for the defections.
“Several politicians from opposition parties in the Telugu states own businesses, but they didn't defect to the ruling party in either state. If safeguarding of business interests is the reason, they should have jumped as well,” he said.
“It's very common to see defections ahead of elections. Certain local political equations and doubts about getting MP or MLA seat are the deciding factors,” he added.