Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and now Puducherry — three Congress-led governments have collapsed in the past year and a half. The party narrowly averted a similar disaster last year in Rajasthan, where the CM and his deputy continue to be at loggerheads even after a ‘patch-up’. Routed in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has struggled to remain in the saddle in the states where it has done well in the Assembly battles in recent years. The upheaval in Puducherry, which comes just a few months before the UT goes to the polls, is attributable to a brazen display of political one-upmanship. The V Narayanasamy-led dispensation was left with no legs to stand on after the resignation of six MLAs within a month or so.
The gradual shrinking of the Grand Old Party’s footprint across the country has coincided with the BJP’s growing presence and influence. The latter has kept chipping away at vulnerable Congress governments and managed to wrest the initiative more often than not. The Congress’ failure to set its own house in order — the party has been awaiting a full-time president since the 2019 poll debacle — has allowed the drift and indecisiveness to percolate down to the states. The new president will take charge only in June, notwithstanding the urgency lent by the upcoming Assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The spate of resignations by Puducherry MLAs has again turned the spotlight on the anti-defection law, whose lacunae embolden opportunists to bring down elected governments and overturn the people’s mandate. According to the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, a legislator is deemed to have defected if he voluntarily quits his party or disobeys the directives of the party leadership on a vote. However, an MLA can give up membership of the Assembly any time and make himself ineligible for such a vote. A law aimed at stabilising governments by preventing floor crossings has repeatedly proved to be counterproductive. It needs stringent, airtight provisions to deter Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams from making a mockery of democracy.