Reeling under heightened political drama, politics in Tamil Nadu witnessed a historical day today. After the judgment by the Supreme Court barring AIDMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) General Secretary V K Sasikala from becoming the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, equations changed in the political scenario of the state. After the death of AIDMK supremo J Jayalalitha on December 5, 2016, Sasikala rose to prominence, being the close aide of Jayalalitha and was expected to take oath as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. The political drama intensified when acting Chief Minister O Pannerselvam released his statement about the forceful exclusion of him from the Chief Minister’s post by party officials.
The AIDMK party workers and leaders were split into two and a floor test was expected to prove strength of both the leaders for the Chief Ministerial position.
However, the apex court order, putting Sasikala for a four-year jail term and six years’ inability to fight elections, jeopardised her political career. She was booked under a disproportionate assets case, which dates back 19 long years. The verdict from the Supreme Court is important as it upholds constitutional values.
A similar ousting took place in case of ex-Chief Minister of Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav on October 3, 2013. He was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted for the fodder scam in Bihar by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court. The Supreme Court in 2013 had also ruled that convicted lawmakers should not fight for election for the next six years after their release, preventing Lalu Prasad Yadav from contesting any election for 11 years. The order passed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court could be overturned only by a higher court, which has not yet taken place.
It is important in this context to understand the Representation of People’s Act mentioned in our Constitution.
Representation of People Act, 1951:
Commenced on July 17, 1951, Representation of People Act, 1951 is an act of Parliament of India under which the clauses of qualification and disqualification of the members of members of parliament or state legislatures are mentioned. It mentions the grounds or offences under which disqualification of a member from either house or assembly can take place. Under the section 9 (A) of the Representation of People’s Act and Article 191 (E) of the Constitution, a public servant (MLA or MPs) cannot hold office of profit. The very first politician to be disqualified by the Election Commission of India under Representation of People Act was Umlesh Yadav on October, 2011. She was an MLA in Bisauli constituency, Uttar Pradesh. The Election Commission order declared, ‘EC has no option but to declare her disqualified for the said failure for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament or of the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of any State under the said section 10A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 for a period of three years from the date of this order.’
Along with the Representation of People Act, it would be interesting to know some vital facts about anti-defection law as well in this present political context of Tamil Nadu. The AIDMK has already ousted O Pannerselvam from the party and made Edappadi K Palanisamy the new pick for Chief Minister. In such a case, there will be ongoing political drama in the state as there will be a floor test organised for both Edappadi Palaniswamy and O Pannerselvam in the coming days.
The Anti-Defection Law was incorporated by the 52nd Amendment in 1985 in our Constitution. In the paragraph 2 of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, the grounds of disqualifications are mentioned. A member under the law can incur disqualification only when he ‘voluntarily gives up his membership of a party’ or ‘when he/she votes (or abstains from voting) contrary to the directives issued by the party’. As per the act, a ‘defection by one-third of the elected members of a political party was considered a merger. But in the 91st Constitutional Ammendment Act, 2003, it was changed and merger was considered only when two thirds of the members of a party are in favour of it. The disqualified members can stand for elections from any political party for a seat in the same house. Recently, Congress lost its government in Arunachal Pradesh, when 43 of its MLAs led by Chief Minister Pema Khandu shifted to People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA). Khandu defected former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and formed a new government as a result of merger of Congress to PPA.
It would be interesting to watch how the floor test pans out for the formation of Tamil Nadu government in the coming days. The Governor of Tamil Nadu Vidyasagar Rao would have to finally take a call on the present situation and ensure the establishment of a government in the state to avoid President’s rule being imposed.