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Goa welcomes changes in anti-defection law
Sandesh Prabhudesai in Panaji | April 25, 2003 09:28 IST
Goa, a tiny state that has created a record of sorts when it comes to political defections, has welcomed the Centre's decision to amend the anti-defection law.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday decided to amend the law so that parliamentarians and members of legislative assemblies voting defying a party whip can be disqualified.
The government will delete Para 3 of Schedule X of the Constitution to make the requisite change. Right now, a split in a party is legitimate if one third of its members vote against the whip.
It also decided to take steps to limit the strength of the council of minister at the Centre and the states. Small states, having 30 to 40 legislators, will have only seven ministers.
"I fully support the move," says Manohar Parrikar, who heads the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government in the state.
Pratapsing Rane of the Congress, however, has reservations.
"It will further corrode the system. We need to have a second look at the Constitution itself, perhaps change the whole system," he says.
Since 1990, Goa has elected four assemblies and twice the House has had to be prematurely dissolved due to defections.
In 12 years, the state has witnessed 13 chief ministers due to 21 defections involving 80 defectors.
Even Parrikar became the BJP's first chief minister in Goa in October 2000 by engineering defections from the Congress.
Parrikar says the rule of disqualification should be applied only when whips dealing with policy matters and survival of the government are defied. The power to disqualify legislators should also continue to be in the hands of the speaker, but with a time limit, he adds.
Though four of his 13 ministers belong to coalition partners, Parrikar says he will continue to be the chief minister even if the size of the cabinet is restricted to seven. "Stability has nothing to do with numbers."
Rane, who was the speaker the last time defections took place, says the power to disqualify should be given to the judiciary. "No speaker can be impartial, since he belongs to a particular party."
Though he had also once proposed to trim the cabinet size, Rane, a victim of defections twice in the past, refuses to believe a seven-member ministry will bring stability.
"The power-hungry politicians will find new loopholes to continue their corrupt ways," he says.
According to him, rather than following Britain or America, India needs to evolve a system that will elect the prime minister and chief ministers directly while giving them the power to select their colleagues, even if they are not elected.
"The legislators should only legislate and go home," he says.
Pointing out to the political situation at the Centre, Rane wonders whether the government will be in a position to amend the anti-defection law.
Instead, he feels the committee on constitutional amendments should look into the whole parliamentary system."Otherwise India will not be able to face the challenges of the 21st century," says the former chief minister, who had once ruled continuously for a decade with only four to five ministers, until he was toppled in 1990 by his own partymen.
More reports from Goa