The outset of political switch overs and casualties


By Pankaj Maru

It’s over a week since the Election Commission of India announced the dates for the general election 2019 and the Indian electorate is already witnessing more incidents of  “change of heart and ideology.” Simply put this as ‘political switch overs’ – a very common trait among Indian politicians.

Political switch overs take place across parties, almost anytime and anywhere across India. But it is more prominent and visible around the time of elections. Let’s take the case of  senior politician Tom Vadakkan, who moved to BJP from Congress this midweek.

Vadakkan, a former party spokesperson and former close aide of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was with the Indian Nation Congress (INC) for more than two decades. That’s a quiet long time for any politician, indicating his or her loyalty to a political organisation.

But what forced Vadakkan to join BJP was the Congress party’s questioning the integrity of armed forces post the Pulwama attack. “Narratives to win elections is one thing. A narrative that encompasses the country – that brings the world’s attention to this country is more important to me than elections,” Vadakkan told media.

Despite being with the Congress party for such a long time, Vadakkan seemed very unhappy and vocal about the his party’s dynastic driven-functioning style and internal policy, which he even called as ‘ use and throw’ policy.

Vadakkan started his political career by joining the Congress party under the leadership of late Rajiv Gandhi and gradually made his way up to the top cadre. During his stay in the Congress party, he held key posts like National Spokesman Congress, Secretary AICC and Convenor Grievance cell AICC among others.

According to political analysts, Vadakkan’s move to BJP is a big blow to the Congress party, considering the timing of  his decision and the constituency he represents.

Vadakkan joinning the BJP, right ahead of the polls, is not a very good sign for the Congress party and secondly, BJP would want to take maximum advantage of Vadakkan, by leveraging his hold and connect with the voters in Kerala, in particular, the local Christian community voters.

Now BJP has Vadakkan on its side, so the party would be hoping to make some inroads in this politically uncharted southern state during this upcoming Lok Sabha election. Since the BJP came into the power in 2014, Kerala is among the list of seven states, where it wants to build party’s local presence by winning state-assembly and LokSabha seats.

Certainly, Vadakkan’s decision appears as the first major political causality that the Congress party has suffered at the national level and that too, when the party kicked-off its election campaign from Ahmedabad last week.

But the Congress party has downplayed this entire political episode and its impact. In fact, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said that “Vadakkan is not a big leader.” Gandhi’s use of words for Vadakkan, does indicate his anger and sheer arrogance against a former party worker, whose senior to him in age and political experience.

In a similar incident in Gujarat, Vallabh Dharaviya, an MLA from Jamnagar (Rural) assembly seat quit Congress party and joined the BJP. And Dharaviya even got a ministerial berth in chief minister Vijay Rupani’s government within 24 hours after joining BJP. This happened just a day prior to the party’s CWC meeting in Ahmedabad.

More so, while the CWC meeting was in a full swing in Ahmedabad, the Congress party had to face a big embarrassment in the neigbhouring Maharashtra. Sujay Patil, a son of a senior Congress MLA Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and opposition leader in the Maharashtra assembly joined the BJP on the day of CWC.

Likewise, a Congress MLA in Karnataka, Umesh Jadhav, just after two days of resigning the party joined the BJP early this month. Perhaps, the Congress party is not alone that has suffered political causalities in terms of exits, right ahead of the general polls 2019.

West Bengal’s chief minister Mamta Banerjee’s Trinimool Congress Party (TMC) lost Arjun Singh to BJP. Singh, a four-time MLA from Bhatpara assembly seat is an influential and key aide to chief minister Banerjee.

For Singh, the reason for joining BJP was chief minister Banerjee’s questioning of India’s air strike on Balakot, where she asked for proof of terrorists that had been killed. Interesting though, both politicians, Singh and Vadakkan have cited almost identical reasons and narratives for joining the BJP.

However, with Singh’s exit, TMC has suffered three political causalities already in recent weeks. Prior to Singh, two other lawmakers Soumitra Khan from Bishnupur and Anupam Hazra from Bolpur assembly seats respectively, have joined BJP after they were expelled from the party.

On the other side, a former BJP MP Savitri Bai Phule from Bahraich constituency in Uttar Pradesh, who had quit the party in last December, joined the Congress party earlier this month. Phule had resigned from BJP after UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath had made remarks, saying “Hindu god Hanuman was a Dalit.”

Besides, Rakesh Sachan, a former Samajwadi Party lawmaker from Fatehpur, UP also joined the Congress party two weeks ago. In addition, 10 former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leaders have joined the Congress party just before the election commission had announced the dates for Lok Sabha election.

Among these 10 BSP politicians, two are actually former state presidents of BSP and a former MP from Madhya Pradesh. The reason for them to Congress is mainly BSP chief Mayawati’s style of running the organisation, which many say is undemocratic in nature. Prior to this, Devraj Singh Patel, a BSP politician and former MP joined the Congress party.

Balabhadra Majhi, a Former Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP from Odisha’s Nabarangpur has joined th BJP  early this week. Likewise, Arvind Sharma, a former Congress MP from Haryana joined the BJP last week in presence of Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar.

K S Radhakrishnan, a top cadre Congress worker and a former chairman of the Kerala Public Service Commission joined BJP a fews days ago. Radkrishnan, who spent over a decade in the Congress party said that his reason for joining the BJP is “PM Modi and his very effective and pro-power leadership”

While these are some of the top politicians, both at national and state level that have changed their political parties just before the polls, but there many others small time local politicians and workers across India that keep switching political parties more often and almost lost political relevance among the local people.

Overall, the Congress party, so far, has been on the receiving end of these political causalities and  switch overs in the run-up to this general election compared to BJP and other political parties.

Perhaps, BJP appears to be making most  of these political switch overs and building its bench strength to take on opposition parties that have come together, forming the Mahagathbandhan or the grand coalition.

But one reason that seems to be working well for the BJP and its NDA (National Democratic Alliance) is playing the ‘nationalism’ card, which is standing strong against the ‘anti-Modi’ stand of opposition parties led by Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Whatever could be the reasons why these politicians leave and join different political parties, but it is very clear that political switch overs happen at the time of polls are more resulted oriented as it helps in fulfilling personal political ambitions for these politicians.

It could be like getting poll tickets, ministerial berths, desired ministry or portfolio and even, bigger political roles in the party. And not to mention the undisclosed big money deals and other highly valuable stuffs these politicians crack for themselves behind closed doors in return of these political switch overs.

But above all, these politicians could also demand the removal of their names or family members from any formal investigation linked to legal cases or inquiries pertaining to their involvement in any irregularities, scams or political accusations in return of their political support. These sorts of bargains actually do happen underneath these political switch overs.

However, this trend of political switch over is unlikely to end anytime soon and certainly will continue even after the Lok Sabha election results are out.

The political cross over, actually happens everywhere, not just at the national or state level politics, but has penetrated its roots to the level of municipal corporations and councils, zilla parishads or district councils and even to the gram or village panchayats.

The entire political ecosystem today has been corroded with political switch overs. It is nothing but corruption within political parties, which certainly is a form of cheating, betrayal and unjustifiable act to the voters.

And most political parties would turn their eyes blind against political switch overs and claim that they are unaffected by it because hardly there’s any ethics and moral code of conduct these parties or their leaders and workers want to follow or abide by.

Pankaj Maru, is an independent technology and business journalist and has been working in the field of Journalism for over 14 years.