Stirrings in House
The crossing over of four of the six Rajya Sabha MPs from the Telugu Desam to the BJP passes the anti-defection test — the law treats more than one-third of legislators leaving a party as a split. The splinter group has also merged with the BJP. According to paragraph 4 of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution, “the merger of the original political party of a member of a House shall be deemed to have taken place if, and only if, not less than two-thirds of the members of the legislature party concerned have agreed to such merger.” The group that crossed over to the BJP has the numbers to pass this test as well. One of them, Y S Chowdary, justified his move as a step to facilitate “the development of Andhra Pradesh”, which he believes can be achieved only by cooperation, and not confrontation, with the Centre. This may well be the case. It may even be a coincidence that the Income Tax department had raided the residential and official premises of Chowdary and C M Ramesh, another one of the MPs in question, last year for alleged financial misdeeds, prompting BJP MP G V L Narasimha Rao, ironically, to write to the Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha demanding action against them.
It could be argued that the movement of legislators across the aisle is part of the churn in politics in states including Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, after the general elections. The Congress and TDP were decimated in the polls and the few legislators who won on these party tickets seem to be exploring greener pastures — 12 of the 18 Congress MLAs in Telangana crossed over to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti soon after the May 23 verdict. Even so, these movements of legislators will be under watch, and especially so in the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP is keen to address its lack of numbers, and which, in recent years, is being seen as a bulwark against the attempts by a government with a large majority in the Lok Sabha to have its way. The importance of the Upper House, which is also home to the voice of the states, has only grown in times when the federal character of the republic is seen to be increasingly under strain from centralising tendencies.
The Rajya Sabha has been in progressive decline since many years now, with political parties regularly accused of selling their nominations to the highest bidders. However, the House also witnesses debates of the highest order and acts as an important check on the government. It is in the interest of all parties, and important for the sake of the democratic process, that the dignity of the Rajya Sabha is upheld, especially in times when it performs a more crucial role than before.