Why is defection a non-issue for voters?

News: Recently, India has seen a political drama in Maharashtra in which 37 Shiv Sena legislators were involved in defection.

Anti-Defection Laws in India

It is not new to Indian politics, and has been around for a long time. It is a routine exercise in Indian politics.

There have been several attempts to strengthen laws to curb this menace of defection in politics.

The bill for this menace was first introduced in the 4th Lok Sabha in 1967. However, it became a law as the Anti-Defection law in 1984. Further, the act was amended in 2003 to strengthen the legislation.

What are the causes of such a high level of defection in India?

Indian voters do not have concern about candidates defecting from one political party to another.

There is a party-centred approach in voting in India.

For example, a large majority of Indian voters vote for the party and not for the candidate.

Further, such a voting pattern is prevalent amongst both uneducated and educated voters, amongst urban and rural voters and amongst voters with various degrees of media exposure.

Many legislators defect to other parties for purely personal gains.

For example, there would be greater chances of win if elections are contested on the ticket of any “popular” political party. It is the party’s ticket and the popularity of its leader that helps them win the election.

Indian voters are divided on what kind of representatives they would prefer to vote for.

For example, 48% voters are happy to vote for an honest but inaccessible candidate, 24% voters are happy to vote for a candidate who is corrupt but accessible and 36% voters are ready to vote for a candidate with criminal background, but gets works done etc.

Way Forward

If voters take into consideration the merits and demerits of candidates, then many defectors and candidates with questionable records would fail to make it into Parliament or the Assemblies of different States.

Voters should decide to choose the candidate rather than the party during elections. It would push the MLAs/etc. to do work instead of just switching to parties just for electoral gain.

There is a slight increase in candidate-centred voting amongst Indian voters during the last few years.

As per the Lokniti-CSDS’s the National Elections Studies, during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 58% voters mentioned voting for the party while 33% said they voted for the candidate. However, findings of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, says, 52% voted for the party and 37% voters preferred voting for the candidate.

Source: The post is based on an article “Why is defection a non-issue for voters?” published in the “The Hindu” on 4th July 2022.

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