Political parties come with different ideologies. There are far right, far left, centre right, centre left, left, right or combinations; followed by political parties of various hues. There are countries, which claim to have democracy with elections where there is only one candidate for every position and all eligible citizens must vote else he or she will land up in jail. Then there are countries where there is only one party and the ideology of the party governs the country; though with the change in the leadership, the ideology also changed. Then there are countries where there are only three or four parties with two being the main contestants and some of the newer parties are formed due to ideological differences with the main parties like the Green party in some European countries.
Members of a political party subscribe to a main ideology though there may be subtle differences in the understanding between the beliefs of the members. The Trumpism narrative in the Republicans in USA was an aberration as many Conservatives are uncomfortable with the far right approach and do not support him.
Then there are countries like India where political parties cannot be counted in one’s hand following the belief - the more the merrier. In India parties are of different hues, some based on religion, some on ethnic lines, some on caste, so on and so forth, that the number of contestants in any election is many. Due to such a large number of political parties, the main ideology of a party got diluted and being a feudal country for a long time, with the idea of democracy not rooted deeply, the tendency is to look towards a sole undisputed leader.
A strong leader can bring in success, like Indira Gandhi or Narendra Modi. The tendency now at present is to follow this logic and even in the states, the credit is given to the PM and the CM as if all the other leaders are mere side-kicks doing only what the Great Leader tells.
Further, hopping parties to those in power has become the norm, as they have little ideological moorings when they join politics and do not understand the ideological basis of the political parties to which they belong. One reason is election is a costly affairs despite limits laid down by the ECI which was never followed or properly imposed, and those who had worked in the party for a long time could not contest as they don’t have the financial resources and those who earn through contracts or black market but joined the party recently have a tendency to get party tickets.
It was a surprise when after the state election in Maharashtra the Shiv Sena ditched the BJP to form a government with the INC and the NCP under the name Maha Vikas Aghadi. Shiv Sena and BJP are ideologically very close, but the quarrel was the leadership of the government. Uddhav Thackeray realised that if he was not a CM for at least two or three years, in the next election they will become a side-kick of the BJP and lose their relevance in the state as the BJP has a tendency to swallow their partners with similar ideology. Thus the MVA is a government with partners of diametrically opposite political ideologies and thus each party’s core ideology cannot be implemented. The machinations to make Eknath Shinde lead a group of MLAs from Shiv Sena to form a Government with the BJP is altogether another matter.
Bihar is another different story. The master of ditching partners, Nitish Kumar left the Mahagatbandhan to join hands with the BJP but unfortunately his party JD (U) won fewer seats as compared with its partner BJP. Though he was made the CM, he realised that his time with the BJP will ensure his party's demise in their stronghold, Bihar. Being a shrewd politician, he ditched BJP to reunite with RJD and INC to revive the Mahagatbandhan. His joining with BJP was a surprise as ideologically there are no similarities with it. But his street smart acts to stay in power and in the limelight led to his switching partners and till now he is quite successful.
JD (U) due to being a partner in the NDA when they fought elections could get a few members elected, be it in Arunachal Pradesh or Manipur on the belief by the electorate that they will be a partner in the government. In fact, JD (U) at the time of election was called the “B” team of BJP in Manipur. But unfortunately for the MLAs, BJP returned with absolute majority and they were not made partners, and had to satisfy by supporting the BJP Government from outside.
In Arunachal Pradesh, in the 2019 election JD (U) got 7 seats but in 2020, six MLAs resigned and joined the BJP and in 2022 the remaining lone JD (U) MLA ditched his party and joined the BJP. Thus, Nitish Kumar smarting by such audacious poaching bides his time and when it is ripe he struck in Bihar, taking the BJP by utter surprise and in fact, there was no uniform reaction from the party spokespersons of the BJP when this happened.
BJP had to react to the situation in Bihar and it ensured that 5 of the 6 JD (U) MLAs in Manipur join the BJP leaving a single MLA and it is a question of time that this lone JD (U) MLA will also join the BJP. This is however subject to his reading whether in his constituency, a BJP candidate can muster winning in the next election.
The question arises why are elected representatives so easily drawn to the party in power, irrespective of which party is in power. The answer is simply that they are drawn by the perceived power if they join the ruling party rather than stay in the opposition and the advantage they may get in joining the party in power. Ideology is thrown to the wind as they do not have a clear political ideology of their own and for them any party which is in power is preferable.
Manipur is known for its “Aya Ram, Gaya Ram” tendency and Manipur and Bihar were the main contributors for the insertion of the 10th Schedule to the Constitution. Its MLAs are past masters in ditching the parties under which they were elected to join other parties for their own benefit.
The 10th Schedule just could not stop them and in fact the Constitution needed further amendment so that the disqualification hearing is not done by the Speaker but by a Tribunal consisting of retired Judges of the Supreme and High Courts and a time limit for the disposal of such cases is laid down.
The time schedule may be violated as seen in the election petitions where most were declared when the term of the House is about to expire or become even infructuous due to delay. Here also to restore faith in the electoral and judiciary processes there must be a time limit say six months during which the judgement is out even if day to day sitting is necessary. This may also have issues as say in Manipur the number of election petitions is too many but many could be decided early as the challenge is mostly on alleged false affidavits which can be easily verified from records.
In liberal democratic countries, politicians who ditch their parties and join another generally do not fare well, though there are few cases where they did well later after giving proper and solid rationale to his electorate for their act. But in India and more so in Manipur ideology is never the strong point of the politicians. This can be seen, when prospective candidates who could not get the party ticket, will immediately join another party to contest.
One fails to understand why they can’t contest as an independent like that done in Keisamthong AC in the recent election. Is it due to lack of confidence or inferiority complex or on expectation the political party will support with funds for the election? A proper sociological study would be illuminating.
The switching of 5 MLAs from the JD-U to BJP in Manipur came as no surprise and this was expected; in fact this writer's expectation was within a week or at the most ten days from the day Nitish left the NDA and was sworn in as the CM again in Bihar.
Such acts indicate the immaturity of the political system in India and make one question whether India is really fit for democracy? Despite the claim that India is the largest democracy, votes are mainly on personality and not on ideology, money and not on qualification, muscle power and not on ability.
(The views expressed is personal)