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It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s an MLA

Every time there is a hung assembly or an underwhelming majority or a sudden floor test, turn your eyes skywards and you are sure to see MLAs zipping past

Upala Sen Published 04.02.24, 05:15 AM
Representational image

Representational image File picture

No sooner did Champai Soren take oath as the new chief minister of Jharkhand than a little more than three dozen MLAs were whisked away to counter attempts to poach them. Defecting MLAs, as is the trend now, fly to the nearest rival-proof state. But one wouldn’t hazard putting that down in stone. In some cases, as in 2022 with Eknath Shinde’s band of loyalists, MLAs have hopped. When they defected from the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and toppled the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition government in Maharashtra, in less than a fortnight, Shinde and his men flew from Mumbai to Surat to Guwahati to Goa and back to Mumbai. A couple of thousand miles and an ideology away, reportedly borne on chartered jets — Boeing 737 MAX 8, Learjet 45XR, Hawker 800XP. One wonders what Devi Lal of the Indian National Lok Dal would have done, where he would have taken his 48 defecting MLAs of Haryana in 1982, had he such technology at his disposal. Would he have chosen hideouts other than some New Delhi hotel and a heavily guarded farmhouse in Sirsa, as he did? Or would he have stuck to his choices and trusted his own political stature to be the real buffer? In the 1990s, when air travel was not yet a commonplace thing, the BJP’s Shankersinh Vaghela had flown his defecting MLAs from Gujarat, but to Khajuraho in neighbouring MP.

Gives them wings


Picture the MLAs and their predicament and a catchy energy drink ad with its catchier slogan comes to mind. The only other freely flying mammals of these times are bats. Is there really any formula to be worked out between what political parties have at stake and how far defecting MLAs must fly to protect that? No one can say for sure. Devi Lal could not prove majority as one of the MLAs escaped down a water pipe. Vaghela, though, became chief minister of Gujarat with the Congress’s support. In 2022, when Shinde took oath as chief minister of Maharashtra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “I am confident he will work towards taking Maharashtra to greater heights.”


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