The infamous ‘aaya ram, gaya ram’ politics might have a negative connotation, but statistics show that 52 percent of defectors get re-elected.
Over the past few days, we have been hearing about scores of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in many states across party lines leaving their party and joining another in hope of better prospects.
In Uttar Pradesh, 11 MLAs of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) including minister Swami Prasad Maurya, and Dara Singh Chauhan have resigned and joined the Samajwadi Party (SP).
Many sitting and ex-MLAs from the SP, the Congress, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have also joined the BJP. On January 19, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav joined the BJP.
In Uttarakhand, the two-way movement of leaders between the Congress and BJP continues unabatedly. In 2016, Harak Rawat left the Congress with 10 MLAs, which led to the government falling. Rawat joined the BJP, and became a minister in 2017. Now that he has been removed from the Cabinet, Rawat has left the BJP, and made a ‘gharwapsi’ to the Congress.
In Punjab, on January 17, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Ferozepur Rural candidate Ashu Banger resigned from AAP and joined the Congress. Banger will now contest from the same seat as a Congress candidate.
In Goa the situation is more fluid, with leaders hopping political parties more frequently. Aleixo Reginald Lourenco, who left the Congress in December and later joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC), resigned from the TMC on January 16. He tried to go back to the Congress, but was denied a ticket, and will now contest as an independent. The numbers give a clearer picture: 24 of the 40 MLAs in Goa are today in a different party than when they were elected in 2017.
The ‘aaya ram gaya ram’ politics is in full flow. This is the new aspirational political class. Party loyalty is not in the question; everyone is looking for greener pastures. Those working in the corporate sector would see these politicians with envy because they do not have a notice period while changing from one political party to another!
While some politicians are leaving parties after being denied a ticket, some pre-empt the move, while others leave the party if the tide is not in its favour. Most of these politicians look at a political party as a medium for personal growth; they look at their prospects, the party’s future, etc. while switching boats.
How does the public react to such leaders? Are they seen as opportunists, and ideologically bankrupt? Do these politicians succeed?
Data analysed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) reveals that nearly 45 percent of the MLAs who have switched parties and contested elections between 2016 and 2020 have joined the BJP. The BJP’s rise in national politics since 2014 is a major factor here. Forty-two percent of the MLAs who defected during this time period left from the Congress.
Between 2016 and 2020, a total of 12 Lok Sabha and 16 Rajya Sabha MPs defected to re-contest in the polls. While none of the 12 Lok Sabha MPs got re-elected, all 16 defectors from the Rajya Sabha secured their seats.
Of the 357 MLAs who defected to contest fresh elections, 170 (48 percent) emerged victorious. In bye-elections to assemblies, the success rate of defectors was much higher, with 39 (81 percent) of the 48 defectors getting re-elected.
On the whole, 52 percent of the 433 MLAs and MPs who defected were able to retain their seats.
According to the ADR, the most plausible reasons behind switching parties are an absence of value-based politics, the greed for money and power (corruption), a money-muscle nexus, and a reward of office.
A commonly held belief is that defectors seldom reach high positions in the party they join, as they can’t be entirely trusted. In the BJP, all Chief Ministers from the North East states, excluding Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb, have come from other parties.
The BJP has also made former Janata Dal leader Basavaraj Bommai the Chief Minister of Karnataka. In 2003, it made Arjun Munda, who had joined from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand. He is currently a Union Cabinet Minister. So is Jyotiraditya Scindia who helped BJP form government in Madhya Pradesh by breaking 22 MLAs from the Congress.
When strong leaders hop, they bring value to the table by bringing cadre as well as community votes. ‘Winnability’ is the key criteria in such cases.
In today’s 24X7 news cycle such defections also help create a narrative in favour of the party which welcomes such turncoats, even influencing neutral voters.