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Harmless Defections and Harmful Ones


(By Ashok Tankasala)

It is surprising to see that some people are still surprised of
defections by elected representatives, as is being witnessed presently with four of the TDP Rajya Sabha members walking over to the ruling BJP at the Centre.

After decades of such turncoat-ism from and into mainly centrist and rightist parties for considerations of various benefits, there is nothing left to be surprised about.

Such developments only make some momentary news. Maybe a little more than that if it leads to making or unmaking governments.

The reason for such nonchalance is that both the ayarams and gayarams belong to the same flock either ideologically and political value system-wise.

Not just the candidates, but even the parties who either’ gain’ or ‘lose’ them. This is to conclude that these entire exercises and the related brouhaha over it hardly means anything for the people in real sense.

No doubt some sections of people who feel to be moral are peeved over such actions but forget it in no time, one because such defections have become commonplace, and two because they find nothing to choose between the two sides. Then there is another important point which is hardly discussed either in the media or among
the public.

Our polity has become a patron-client kind of arrangement long ago. This feature is becoming more and more of a norm with ideologies and moral norms and value systems getting dismantled with the passage of time.

As mentioned above this tendency was noticed even earlier in a limited way but with the ushering in of economic reforms during the 1990s the pace of such decline picked up in every sense. With more and more commercialization of everything for elected representatives of different political parties, the ideologies of their respective parties began to become secondary. Nothing but power and money began to matter.

Thus they began to shed all norms. An empirical data on such defections before and after reforms could show these changes. And defectors included a good number of industrialists and businessmen interested in either protecting their interests or saving skins from CBI, ED raids. The current defections from TDP are such a case in point.

On the other hand, even sections of the general public who have become a kind of clientele class, or expect small favors, or look for their genuine grievances to be addressed, or belong to the same communal class as the defector is, do not really mind where he goes or comes.

As long as they believe that he can serve their interests they will
vote for him thus endorsing his action in an indirect manner. We do not know of any studies on the electoral victory/ defeat patterns of defectors. But for general observation,  defectors are hardly punished by the electorate for their ” unethical” acts.

What should actually matter from the public point of view is
ideological defections. Within the parties of centrist or
left-of-the-centrist ilk, to which an overwhelming number of Indian parties belong to, representatives shifting this way or that is no doubt unethical but poses no threat to the polity or society.

What should be of concern in real sense is someone defecting to ‘rightist’ parties from the centrist or leftist formations. Such defectors may not always be driven by ideological considerations. But they will certainly be adding some critical moss required by those forces, which will lead to unwelcome consequences.

(This article was written before the author’s appointment as the adviser to the Government of Telangana)