The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Saddam-style hunt in Bush backyard
- Republicans issue cards to track down Democrats who fled Texas to thwart constituency recast plan

Washington, May 14: After America’s presidential election in 2000, which suspiciously looked like Bihar’s or Uttar Pradesh’s infamous rigging of polls, lawmakers in Texas are emulating their counterparts in the political badlands of India.

Democrats in the Texas legislature have fled the state and are holed up in a luxury hotel across the border in Oklahoma to avoid being poached on by Republicans.

Their flight, which has created a major political crisis in America, is reminiscent of .T. Rama Rao’s decision some two decades ago to drive his MLAs to the safety of Janata Party-ruled Karnataka after he was manoeuvred out of office by defections induced by the Congress. Several Indian chief ministers have since repeated such political circus.

In Texas — President George W. Bush’s home state — today, the ruling Republicans went further.

Warrants have been issued to arrest the legislators and bring them back to the state House of Representatives.

Republicans have also distributed a deck of cards with the faces of runaway legislators, much like the wanted men and women of Saddam Hussein’s regime, so that the public can catch them and hand them over to state authorities.

The crisis owes its genesis to a Republican effort to “redraw” or delimit constituencies or “districts” in Texas which elect members of the US House of Representatives.

States are required to redraw their Congressional districts once in 10 years to take into account changes in demography in every census.

In 2001, the Texas legislature failed to reach a consensus on delimitation, forcing a federal court to do the job — just as the Supreme Court virtually appointed Bush President.

Now the Republican Party’s national leadership, confident of the success of any such effort, wants the state House of Representatives to redraw the constituencies.

Democrats are opposed to it in a year when redistricting is not the norm and insist that they are not required by the Constitution to do so now.

The delimitation of constituencies is a farce of American democracy. Unlike in India where the process is fair and non-partisan, in the US, both Democrats and Republicans use their clout of office in the states to redraw electoral districts to suit the poll chances of their respective parties.

Because all registered voters indicate their party loyalty at the time of enrolment as voters, the political composition of every constituency is known to both Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats in Texas say the latest redistricting plan would give five to seven more Congressional seats to the Republicans in addition to the 15 the party already holds of the Texas component on Capitol Hill.

Texas now has 32 seats in the US House of Representatives. Without the presence of Democrats, the state legislature is short of the quorum needed to approve of the redistricting.

If the legislation is not passed by Thursday, rules will require a two-thirds majority to delimit Texas consituencies in time of the Congressional elections in 2004. Republicans are short of that figure.

Throughout today, party supporters of the self-exiled legislators streamed across the Texas border into the Oklahoman town of Ardmore with fruit baskets, balloons and refreshments for their leaders.

In Washington, Republican national leaders were stunned by the tactics of their opposition even as Democrats were pleased with it.

Tom DeLay, Republican leader in the US House of Representatives, criticised the Democrats, saying: “I have never turned tail and run. Even when I am losing, I stand and fight for what I believe in.”

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