New Delhi, Jan. 25: Driven by their respective political and electoral “compulsions”, yesterday’s split in the Nationalist Congress Party was seemingly a “friendly” parting of company between Sharad Pawar and P.A. Sangma.
Yet, the way Sangma went about the split last night suggested his concern to insulate his flock of loyal NCP MLAs in Meghalaya from the new anti-defection law enacted by Parliament during the winter session.
Lest the legislators run the risk of losing their membership if his political rivals seek to invoke the law, Sangma went through an elaborate technical and legal process at a so-called convention of party workers at his residence last night to pronounce a “split” in the party on “ideological” lines.
With the numbers on Pawar’s side, Sangma had no option but to invoke the fundamental principles of the party to split it and get himself elected as the president of the real NCP. He does not fear the possibility of Pawar rocking his boat in Meghalaya or elsewhere in the Northeast. Which was why he declared that the split was a painful one and that he regarded Pawar as one of the tallest leaders in the country.
The amended anti-defection law in the Constitution is clear: it does not entertain any splits in the legislature party. Legislators splitting a party or voluntarily dissociating from the parent party lose their membership of the legislature. The eight NCP MLAs loyal to Sangma in Meghalaya run the risk of becoming the test case for the amended law.
The only circumstance under which a breakaway group of legislators can retain their membership is by proving that the parent party split because of basic ideological reasons.
That was what Sangma precisely sought to establish last night when he announced the split. Since the NCP was formed to oppose a person of foreign origin (read Sonia Gandhi) from becoming Prime Minister, Pawar was going against the basic principles of the party by aligning with her, Sangma asserted.
Pawar’s move was “fundamentally inconsistent” with the party’s founding principles, he said. The fundamental opposition to persons of foreign origin occupying sensitive positions in the government was the basis of the party constitution, as was reflected in the 1999 poll manifesto of the party, he pointed out.
Obviously, Sangma was arguing the case he would put before the Election Commission to convince it to recognise the split.
The recognition of the split is crucial for Sangma and not so much for Pawar. The Meghalaya Assembly in which Sangma has eight MLAs is just into its second year while in Maharashtra, Pawar faces no such problem in the context of the new anti-defection law because the Assembly elections are due this year.