Goa in the past week has been drawing national attention for the abilities of its politicians en masse changing parties and attempting to justify the change without batting even an eyelid. Development of their constituencies is what they say leads to defections, but that is not an argument that the people readily buy as that is exactly what those who jumped in the past said. Clearly, as the story of defections repeats in Goa, there is no innovation even in the reasons being afforded by the politicians for their infamous moves.
Let us look at the last two episodes of defections. Ten MLAs had jumped to the other side in July 2019, and three years later in September 2022, it was eight of them who crossed over. The reactions to this from the rest of the country that raised its eyebrows and condemned the defections, and that of the people of Goa who in part welcomed the defecting MLAs on their return to the constituency while others poked fun or raised their outrage at the act on social media, needs some elaboration and discussion.
It can be said that defectors were rejected by the people, as of the ten MLAs who had defected in July 2019, only three were re-elected in the February 2022 elections, which says a lot for the development argument they had brandished at the time of defection. Had they managed to bring about development in their constituencies, would the people have rejected them? And, if they were rejected at the elections despite development, it leads to show that the people were not happy with their cutting ties with the parent party.
Interestingly, some of those who had defected preferred to contest as Independents, which demolishes the development argument. What could they expect to accomplish as Independents, which they could not do as party men? Besides, despite the rejection of the defectors, the current set of MLAs had no qualms about jumping to the other side.
The latest episode of defections led to television debates on almost all national channels and also articles in various newspapers and web portals in the country. There was condemnation across, with some hard-hitting editorials. Of course, the declaration by Digambar Kamat that God had told him to do what he wants and would back him, led to censure and cartoons in the mainstream media and more than just a few comments across social media, with numerous memes and jokes about it. The Konkani entertainment industry was not far behind, as there were songs uploaded within hours of the defection.
It is what the media said about Goa that requires some reading and understanding of how the state’s politicians are viewed. “The state has gained a particular notoriety for its politicians brazenly switching sides in utter disregard for the people’s verdict,” an editorial in the Hindu titled “Curse of Goa” said. On the oath taken by candidates, it said, “All the gods could do little to prick the conscience of these MLAs who betrayed the mandate. If anything, all that drama only made this latest episode of the curse that much more of a mockery of democracy.”
The Quint in an article said, “So much for ideology and loyalty. Goa is fast surpassing the infamous ‘Aya Ram Gaya Ram’ era in Haryana in the late 1960s when MLAs were being traded like horses, eventually leading to the framing of the Anti-Defection Law in 1985.”
There is more, much more in various newspapers and portals, but this should suffice to get an idea of just what the reaction to the Congress MLAs defecting to BJP has been. It has not been complimentary, it could not be, for nobody could commend the changing of colours by the group of eight.
Goa’s slippery politicians have at various intervals given Goa a bad name. Citing stability and development they switch parties, and have been doing so since the first election. Defection is not new to the Goan political landscape. But there has been no reining it in either. On the other hand, it is the MLAs who ae reigning as they are not concerned about the voters who sent them to the Legislative Assembly because of the party they had contested on.
The national media has not been kind to Goa and its politicians, and rightly so. Where the voters are concerned, they really cannot be blamed, as five of those who defected are first-time MLAs, some of who had been with the Congress for years. It is therefore difficult for the voter to judge who is capable of defecting. It points directly to the greed of the politician.
Goa requires a cleaning up of its political stables from the opportunism that gets played out time and time again. The question is, how can it be done? The latest defections showed us that rejecting defectors in the 2022 elections has not served as a lesson to the MLAs. Electing new faces also has not broken the defection trend. In the final analysis, we ponder on how to stop the MLAs from defecting. The answer may only be in legislation – a law that makes it mandatory for any elected representative to recontest if he or she wants to quit the party during the term of the Assembly.