Fifty-year-old Shekhar, son of former prime minister Chandra Shekhar, is no rookie in politics. He would know only too well that he will, in all probability, shortly return to the Upper House, this time as a BJP member, to serve the remainder of his term. In the Rajya Sabha by-polls, it is a near-certainty that the ruling party in the state where elections are due would win. Shekhar was an MP from Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP has a brute majority in the state Assembly.
Neeraj Shekhar may well have strong reasons for blasting the Samajwadi Party, expressing his disillusionment with its chief Akhilesh Yadav, and proclaiming his newfound love for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After all, in ordinary circumstances, it takes a lot to resign from membership of the Rajya Sabha.
As the Rajya Sabha was about to open for the new session, four out of six Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MPs in Rajya Sabha quit their parent party and joined the BJP. They expressed a lack of confidence in their former leader N Chandrababu Naidu and hailed Modi’s leadership. Similarly, the lone member of Om Prakash Chautala’s INLD in the Rajya Sabha, Ram Kumar Kashyap, joined BJP.
The four TDP members didn’t attract disqualification because they constituted two-thirds of the total strength of their parent party in the House. It was a similar case for the INLD MP. But Shekhar had to resign because the Samajwadi Party had 12 members in the Rajya Sabha. By resigning, he will escape the anti-defection law. His return as a BJP member is a near-certainty.
Since late last month, a day ahead of the beginning of the ongoing Parliament session, the BJP is following a new pattern to increase its numbers in the Rajya Sabha. It is not inclined to be in perpetual wait mode to reach the majority mark.
The real significance of these developments is deeper. Such defections among members of the Rajya Sabha are taking place for the first time. Defections split within a party, formation of new groups, and other such events have been happening since the beginning of electoral politics.
However, these had not taken place in the Rajya Sabha earlier, as numbers in the Upper House do not decide the fate of the government of the day.
Till 21 June, individual Rajya Sabha MPs would make political realignments but would not officially defect from the parties on whose ticket they were elected. A recent example is Sharad Yadav of the JD(U), who was disqualified by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha in December 2017 after it came to be known that he had formed a new party.
The crossing over of two-thirds of TDP MLAs into the BJP had its fallout on Telugu politics. The BJP leadership believes that if it must emerge as an alternative to Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP, which swept both the parliamentary and Assembly polls recently, it must acquire the worker base of the TDP.
While replying to the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address, Modi had said that it was known that the BJP didn’t have a majority in the Upper House. He further said that people are closely scrutinizing the working of the Rajya Sabha and will penalize those who kept on disrupting proceedings and stalling critical Bills, thereby subverting the will of the people.
Writer: Sakshi Gupta