“The going rate for an MLA in the state of Karnataka is Rs. 50 crores,” said Mr. Brijesh Kalappa, lawyer and spokesperson of Indian National Congress. This was at a debate held at the National School of Journalism, Bangalore (NSoJ), on Friday July 12.
Given the current political crisis in Karnataka, the debate focused on whether the Constitution of India is inadequate in dealing with defections by members of parliament and state legislatures. The two speakers were Mr. Brijesh Kalappa and Dr. Harish Narasappa, lawyer and co-founder of Daksh, a civil society organization.
The debate began with Mr. Kalappa speaking about money power in politics and how it has influenced defections from the ruling coalition government in the state. He talked about the history of defections in Indian politics and made a reference to ‘Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram’ (a term coined when Gaya Lal, a Haryana MLA won as an Independent, joined INC and changed parties thrice in a fortnight in 1967). He also stressed that it was the Congress party which brought in the Anti-Defection Law in 1985 with the 52nd Amendment of the Constitution. Dr. Narasappa, on his part, spoke about how law makers themselves do not respect the law in India. There is no point in bringing about another amendment when nobody respects the law, he observed. He felt that the working of the electoral system itself is questionable. “Only the election commission of India believes that the elections are conducted in a free and fair manner,” he said. He further added that the functioning of the political parties in our country is undemocratic in nature. “For that matter, the anti-defection law itself is anti-democratic.” He said it was a tool for the political party to keep a check on its party members.
The debate was conducted along the lines of the Oxford Union Debate and was moderated by the NSoJ chairman, Mr. Timothy Franklyn.