Institutional fixes and the need for ethical politics | The Hindu

2020-04-18 | 4 minutes

Context: Political crisis in Madhya Pradesh (MP) government recently led to change in government there.


  • In December 2018 elections in MP, congress party won over BJP and formed government.
  • In March 2020, several congress MLAs went missing and on 9 March, several cabinet ministers in MP submitted resignations to Chief Minister.
  • MLAs resigned from MP legislative assembly. This led to political crisis and uncertainty in MP as ruling party lost majority support.
  • Governor took the position that if ruling party does not go immediate floor test, it will be presumed to lost majority.
  • Resignation of six MLAs was accepted by speaker. The floor test was to be held on March 26 as scheduled by speaker.
  • On March 19, Supreme Court ordered speaker to carry out a floor test to March 20. On March 19 late night, speaker accepted resignation of remaining 16 congress MLAs and effective strength of assembly was reduced to 206.
  • On 20 March, MP Chief Minister submitted his resignation to governor. On 23 March, MP’s new CM took oath.
  • On 24 March, new CM won trust vote with 112 MLAs against the requirement of 104 (more than 50% of 206).
  • Later, speaker of assembly also gave resignation to deputy speaker on moral grounds.
  • Though CM took oath, other ministers were not sworn in and MP’s new CM is functioning in the absence of Council of Ministers or Cabinet.

Examine political crisis and removal of ruling party from government in Madhya Pradesh in light resignation of Karnataka MLAs:

The political crisis in MP shows emergence of a new method of avoiding anti defection law and removing elected government from power. In July 2019, 17 MLAs resigned from Karnataka assembly and joined party in opposition. Under the new emerging pattern, the resignation of MLAs in groups from legislative assembly lowers the effective strength of the house and brings opposition party (BJP in both cases) in majority. This happened in Karnataka also. The MLAs contest by-election as a candidate of opposition party. The MLAs who have resigned may go for re-election in case of Madhya Pradesh also. Karnataka MLAs were disqualified by speaker of Karnataka legislative assembly. The speaker also passed an order to prevent them from going for by-election. Supreme Court ruled that disqualification is correct and reasonable but cancelled speaker’s order preventing MLAs from contesting by-election. In case of Madhya Pradesh, speaker accepted resignation. So, defecting MLAs will be able to contest by-election.

Examine political crisis and removal of ruling party from government in Madhya Pradesh in light of anti-defection law:

The 52nd Amendment Act, 1985 or anti-defection law does not provide resignation from assembly as ground for disqualification. The grounds of disqualification mentioned in 10th Schedule or anti-defection law is if a legislator voluntarily gives up membership of party and if he votes against party direction or abstains from voting as per party direction. Lack of resignation as a ground for disqualification in anti-defection law is loophole or weakness in the law, which has effectively reduced defection by individual legislators. But, horse-trading is increasing now.

Examine effectiveness of anti-defection law:

Anti-defection law limits individual legislator’s role in a democracy as they should act as per the party direction in order to prevent her disqualification on grounds of defection. By limiting legislator’s freedom, it goes against basic structure of constitution and was challenged in Supreme Court in Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillhu (1992) case. SC ruled in favour of law. It ruled that the decision of Speaker will come under judicial review. Along with limiting the role of individual legislator, anti-defection law is not successful in preventing horse trading of legislators.

Suggested reforms in anti-defection law:

Dinesh Goswami Committee report on electoral reforms has suggested that the provision requiring legislators to follow party whip should be limited to vote of confidence only in order to protect individual legislator’s role and freedom. The efforts to avoid anti-defection law through resignation should be discouraged through the steps similar to Karnataka legislative assembly speaker’s order disallowing legislators from contesting in by-election.


The weaknesses in anti-defection law are harmful to our democratic system and suggested reforms in anti-defection law can be done through constitutional amendment in tenth schedule. Hence, need of the hour is the application of ethics to politics. Along with reforms, application of ethics in politics or ethical politics will permanently solve the problem of defections in Indian politics.

Mains question:

Examine political crisis and removal of ruling party in Madhya Pradesh from power due to resignation of MLAs in light of anti-defection law and resignation of Karnataka MLAs. (200 words) 

Examine effectiveness of anti-defection law and suggest reforms to address the weaknesses. (150 words)