Political Defection in India

Political defection, which denotes a change in the political loyalty of a legislator or group of legislators who switch to another party in the years between elections, has a significant impact on the nature of the party, party system and electoral representation in a democracy and is one of the most universal feature of democratic politics in India.

The anathema of overflow has been an important feature of Indian political discourse since the beginning of Indian democratic politics, as in many other democracies. The sprawling cases of bipartisan defectors have become a modus operandi of Indian politics, prompting the endless ousting of democratically elected governments by rival parties by orchestrated defectors, particularly at the state level of India.

The proliferation of such practices led to the adoption of the Anti-Defection Law in India in 1985. Subsequently, changing political developments showed that anti-defection legislation has largely not stopped the defection, and it continues to unfold unabated to this day.

The idea of ​​political defection has always brought with it a paradoxical ethical question in the practice of democratic politics. Abruptly leaving the party to which the defector belonged and switching to another party (often rival parties) after winning elections under the banner of the previous party is widely seen as an act of political inadequacy and opportunism.

However, it is difficult and empirically untenable to clearly distinguish between cases that arise only for immediate political gain and those for ideal or ideological reasons, as the two factors are often inextricably linked. However, the act of overflowing cannot simply be the product of unethical policy.

On the contrary, conversions could also be seen as instruments for the defense of democratic principles of equality, adjustment and justice. Political scientist Gopal Guru underlined: “It is often said that the decision to win is motivated by the urgency to defend one’s own political autonomy and to respect the principles of democracy and justice. Therefore, such defectors may choose to defend themselves to find a “noble” cause.”

From the defector’s point of view, the defection can be treated as a moral protest aimed at restoring democracy, both within the party concerned and at promoting the democratic spirit in the community. In their self-righteousness, these defectors may also recognize the value of justice in passing it on to other parties. In other words, such movements  are seen as desirable as if they were fueled by a greater concern for justice; Justice that expects party leaders to treat their leaders with fairness and dignity. This creates a persistent ethical dilemma in electoral democracies regarding the act of apostasy.
However, as the spillover process further fueled political instability despite the law to overcome political instability, discussion turned to attempts to revise the anti-aggression law more effectively and rigorously. As political analyst Chakshu Roy explained, “a legalistic approach” has been taken “to solve the problem of overflow, but political problems require political solutions”.

Roy went on to say that the billing approach to solving the problem of changing the political loyalty of lawmakers is fraught with pitfalls. In particular, Roy points out that the legal framework only focuses on imposing punitive measures on defectors if they change parties, but ignores the political parties that should be held accountable for that change as they are the main drivers of the change. Technical defection and destabilization of elected governments are led by their adversaries. Apart from this, the type of party organization and the degree of democracy within the party also play a decisive role in influencing the type of conversion to political parties in India.

It is therefore undeniable that the process of apostasy in established democracies like India has posed challenges for political instability and electoral volatility. However, simply emphasizing the right to vote and the anti-overlap law is less likely to solve the problem.

Further analysis of how party structures and leadership styles work is needed to unravel the fundamental factors that create the breeding ground for transition alongside the immediately tangible concerns. Only a coherent approach to introducing positive reforms to improve the functioning of parties can guarantee long-term solutions to these inevitable challenges in a democracy.

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