Split & merger: Changing colours of elders
Nowadays the fabric of politics is made of tearing a piece from a cloth-roll and stitching a merger with another, though design, colour or texture does not match.
Nowadays the fabric of politics is made of tearing a piece from a cloth-roll and stitching a merger with another, though design, colour or texture does not match. Interestingly Mallyas are our elders in Rajya Sabha.
In fact, Rajya Sabha is for elders, socially mature statesmen whose guidance is required for governance according to the Constitution.
Four MPs tore themselves from Chandra Babu Naidu's cloth-mill and stitched a merger with the BJP by approval of Venkaiah Naidu, the Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
Defections among Lok Sabha members is quite frequent and high in number. We rarely came across floor crossing among members of Rajya Sabha until businessmen entered the scene.
But the TDP MPs had shameful history of backstabbing the leaders NTR and Naidu. Ranging from founding secretary of Telugu Desam Parvataneni Upendra, Viceroy Hotel proprietor Prabhakar Reddy, Renuka Chowdhary, Jayaprada, Mohan Babu, Vijaya Mohan Reddy, Rumandla Ramachandraiah, Tulasi Reddy, C Ramachandraiah and Yarlagadda Lakshmiprasad were elected to the Rajya Sabha by TDP but sooner or later, they shifted loyalties and most of them joined the Congress.
In 1992, P V Narasimha Rao' minority government split six MPs (Lok Sabha) under the leadership of Bhupathiraju Vijay Kumar Raju. Whenever TDP lost in elections, the MPs backstabbed the TDP.
When people like Vijay Mallya were elected to Rajya Sabha, its reputation suffered.
Surprisingly, both the BJP, the JD(S) and the Congress helped him to enter Rajya Sabha twice as 'independent' member. In 2002, the Congress and the JD(s) members voted him while in 2010, the BJP and the JD(S) strived hard to get him the second term.
This raised suspicion that Mallya might have sufficiently satisfied them to agree that he is an elder who can guide the government in elders house.
The BJP got the reputation of blessing Gali brothers who are facing cases for allegations of overexploitation of the mines.
Y S Chowdary was elected to Rajya Sabha by Telugu Desam Party and then he was taken as Minister for Science by Modi 1.0 government. When the allies fell apart, Chowdary had to resign from the Cabinet.
Then the BJP official spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao in November 2018 wrote a twitter comment: "I've complained to Ethics Committee to seek disqualification of two TDP MPs, Y S Choudary & C M Ramesh, who have earned the dubious title of "Andhra Mallyas" with massive financial scandals…," Rao had posted that letter which was reproduced by media after the great 'merger'.
Their cases were not probed as long as they were friendly elder supporters of the BJP government. Before general elections in April-May 2019, these two Rajya Sabha members were vociferous in attacking Modi politics.
After that, the past irregularities and illegalities in their financial transactions running to hundreds of crores of rupees were highlighted and searches were conducted, etc.
When Vijay Mallya fled after duping the banks and appropriating public money worth Rs 7000 crores, Rajya Sabha suffered a loss of reputation. The BJP's reputation as anti-corruption party has suffered a serious dent with some TDP MPs joining with it.
After fantastic victory in recent elections, the BJP's name and fame was very high. It has all required numbers. People thought they need not depend on any party for numbers.
If short of numbers in case of any amendment in Rajya Sabha, these four would have easily supported. Those MPs and BJP leaders including PM were enthusiastic to pose with them.
The media published photocopy of letter of GVL Narasimha Rao calling two MPs as Andhra Mallyas. Except for hardcore fans of BJP, this treacherous split in the TDP and its unholy merger with the BJP are undefendable.
The split of a single unit of the TDP Rajya Sabha members (4 out of 6) is contended to be a merger so that disqualification under Tenth Schedule is not attracted. MP C M Ramesh is facing IT probe.
His name is also linked with Sana Sathish Babu, whose statement formed basis for corruption case against Asthana of the CBI. They also alleged that Ramesh was influencing cases.
There are three FIRs against Y S Chowdary, alleging that a company associated with him fraudulently obtained loans of over Rs 360 crore and did not pay back.
The media reported that ED attached over Rs 315 crore of his assets and recovered 126 rubber stamps of different shell companies from his premises in Hyderabad.
The probe revealed allegations of Rs 5,700 crore worth loan defaults by Sujana Group owned by Chowdary. Both MPs denied these allegations and claimed that it was political vendetta.
The Congress party in-charge of communication Randeep Singh Surjewala criticised the BJP saying "defections are founded upon threats, coercion, money power, muscle power and enticements… BJP engineered defection among the Rajya Sabha MPs belonging to the TDP in an attempt to manufacture a majority in Rajya Sabha" in an "illegal and unconstitutional manner"…
In Modi 2.0- defections are new normal. The TDP in Lok Sabha has not split. The TDP Legislature Party hasn't split. TDP as political party hasn't split. Then, how can TDP in Rajya Sabha split?
Constitution's Tenth Schedule is dead! Surjewala also drew examples from West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa, Karnataka, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and Telangana, where the BJP allegedly engineered defections.
With various kinds of chameleons crossing floors, the colour of politics in Telugu States is changing. The BJP leaders are openly stating that several of TDP MLAs out of 23 elected were in 'touch' with the BJP and soon there would be an exodus.
If it is done, the BJP is all set to play a role of opposition to Jagan Mohan Reddy's government. Attracting or accepting elected representatives from other parties has come to stay as one of the prime strategies of ruling parties.
Parliamentary Party means group of MPs from both the Houses - Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Each party will elect leaders in two Houses. The TDP Parliamentary Party consists of nine MPs (6 from Rajya Sabha and 3 in Lok Sabha).
When only four of nine of TDPP are defecting into BJP, they should attract disqualification as the number is far below than the 'two-thirds' to be considered as 'merger' under provisions of Tenth Schedule. The Vice President has already recognised the 'merger'.
The TDP which ruled from 2014 to 2019 lured or procured 23 MLAs and three MPs from YSR Congress Party. Interestingly, the TDP got reduced to 23 in Assembly and three in Lok Sabha.
The BJP leaders are openly stating that most of the 23 legislators are in touch with them and will surely join their party. New Chief Minister and president of YSRCP Jagan Mohan Reddy said he would accept the defectors only if they resign the membership of Assembly.
Though the Constitution prohibits 'defections', politics of convenience, opportunism and deception facilitate them. The defection is no more a pre-election phenomenon as politicians are adopting it as part of their strategies to remove or weaken the Opposition.
They are finding strength by luring Opposition members. With reference to post-election scene in AP, the BJP is facing serious criticism that after losing all contested seats in Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh and also Telangana (except one) the BJP is totally depending on defections from other parties, which gained less seats.
(The writer is former Central Information Commissioner & Professor at Bennett University)