PUCL Bulletin, August 2001

JP on defections

I am probably whistling at the wind, but is there anyone, in either party, who has heard of a certain Hafiz Mohammed Ibrahim? It is a story that goes back to 1937. Ibrahim had been elected on a Muslim League ticket, but then decided that the Congress side of the fence was greener.

The Congress High Command of the day had no objection to Ibrahim joining their ranks. The leadership did however, impose one condition: that he resigns from the legislature and then stand for election again. Ibrahim agreed and the Congress then sponsored him. He lost, yet he remained in the Congress.
Let us give credit to all the actors in this episode. The Congress leadership was correct in insisting that Ibrahim neither should nor treat the confidence reposed by the voters as a blank cheque. Ibrahim deserved a part for agreeing to the precondition. Can you imagine any of those defectors in present-day Manipur, agreeing to undergo the trust of a bye-election? Or, and this is even more important, the BJP or Samata Party leadership being equally demanding when political morality was concerned?

Neither party, I am sure, remembers this 64 year old episode, nor perhaps would they want to hear that a congress leadership- even one from that golden era set an example that shames the leaders of today. That being the case I remind them of a name they are definitely familiar with and by whom they swear.

I refer to Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan. In 1967, the dawn of the 'Aya Ram, Gaya Ram' period, the veteran leader came up with an immensely practical suggestion. He was too worldlywise to suggest that defections could be banned per se. Instead, he suggested that a defector should not hold any office for the life of the legislature to which he was elected. If however, the lure of ministerial office proved too strong he was free to resign and then offer himself for election to the voters.

Do you see the beauty of the scheme? It does away immediately with all the arithmetical mumbo-jumbo of the Anti Defection Act.. Of course, that same simplicity probably doomed it from the beginning. In 34 years, no party has taken the Lok Nayak's suggestion seriously, not even those organisations, which claim him as their Guru.

-- TVR Shenoy in The Indian Express, May 24, 2001

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