MLAs who defect should not be allowed to contest elections for five years – a petition seeking this action against turncoats will be heard by the Supreme Court next week following a fresh application that comes amid the widening political crisis in Maharashtra.
The petitioner, Madhya Pradesh Mahila Congress chief Jaya Thakur, had called for an urgent hearing in the case that she had filed last year, prompting the court to ask for a response from the central government.
Ms Thakur had called for a crackdown on MLAs who switch sides, including an up to five-year election ban from the date of their resignation or disqualification.
Calling defections “unconstitutional”, the petition accused political parties of trying to destroy India’s “democratic fabric” as well as a “growing trend” of Speakers of assemblies not remaining neutral.
“Political parties are indulging in horse-trading and corrupt practices. Citizens are denied a stable government. These undemocratic practices are making a mockery of our democracy and the constitution. Such undemocratic practices need to be curbed,” it said.
“Constant defections cause huge loss to the public exchequer, which is involved in the conduct of by-elections. Voters are denied their right to choose and elect representatives having a common ideology,” it added, citing the case of Congress MLAs in Madhya Pradesh who were made ministers under the BJP government after they defected in 2020.
The court said it will hear the case on Wednesday, June 29, following the fresh application that comes amid the revolt in Maharashtra’s ruling Shiv Sena against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Around 40 Shiv Sena MLAs led by minister Eknath Shinde are believed to be holed up in BJP-ruled Assam, challenging Mr Thackeray’s leadership and an alliance with the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
The rebels have called for the Shiv Sena to quit the unlikely alliance and partner with the BJP instead – a demand that Mr Thackeray’s camp has said it was willing to consider, even as it moved to have 16 of the dissidents disqualified from the assembly.
According to most counts, Mr Shinde has reached the critical number of MLAs, 37, required to split the party in the assembly without falling foul of the anti-defection law.