The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scurry for defectors before law ring-in

New Delhi, Dec. 17: For smaller parties it is bad news, but the proposed anti-defection law is likely to work in favour of the National Democratic Alliance when the next government is formed.

The amended bill — passed yesterday in the Lok Sabha — is also a blessing for the strife-torn Congress, which is on the brink of a split in Punjab, Kerala and Uttaranchal. But the party has to guard its flock till the new law comes into effect.

Sources said the law should be in place in the next 10 to 15 days once the Rajya Sabha green-lights the bill — it is expected to do so in a day or two — and the President gives his assent.

NDA sources said they will not be surprised if there are a series of splits in the Congress in the coming days as there is still time for the dissidents to go for the kill.

Yesterday, seven Punjab policemen were caught snooping around the residence of Sukhbir Singh Badal, a Rajya Sabha member and son of former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. Badal later told reporters that the cops were spying on BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, with whom he had a meeting an hour earlier.

Punjab Congress circles believe that Mahajan is trying to split the party in the state with the help of rebel leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. Analysts said till the new law comes into force, the BJP would do everything to encourage Congress dissidents in vulnerable states like Punjab, Uttaranchal, Maharashtra and Kerala to wreck the party’s morale.

If the law is good for the Congress in the long run, the BJP stands to gain more. NDA sources said some 23-odd parties back the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government now and they intend to face the next Lok Sabha polls with more or less the same combine.

The sources said the new anti-defection law would put an end to the BJP’s fears of possible splits in the Trinamul Congress, the Janata Dal (United), the Samata Party and the Biju Janata Dal. Even the Telugu Desam Party has its share of disharmony, as MPs from the Telengana region are not happy with party chief . Chandrababu Naidu.

“By and large, the BJP has tackled the alliance leaders such as Chandrababu Naidu, Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav and so on. But it has no control over individual MPs, especially the socialist variety in the JD (U), the Samata and the BJD. At one time, as many as five Samata and four BJD MPs were willing to bolt away,” said an analyst. The new law would put an end to the unending splits, especially in the Janata parivar.

The BJP is also jittery about its flock in Uttar Pradesh, where a group of legislators was willing to break away and support the Samajwadi Party-led government. But chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had no qualms about splitting the Bahujan Samaj Party, spared the BJP the blushes as part of a quid pro quo.

“The situation can change. The legislators are restive. Some of them are not relishing the BJP-SP arrangement as they are left in the cold, without the trappings of power. The new law will insulate the BJP in the crucial heartland state,” the analyst said.

In Arunachal Pradesh, where the BJP has a government, rumblings have begun. So here, too, the anti-defection law would come in handy for the party.

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