With Members of Parliament facing the prospect of attracting provisions relating to disqualification if they violate party whips to cast a “vote of conscience” in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the Anti-Defection Law may ensure that the country will not know what the MPs feel about the India-US nuclear deal.
In its present form, the Anti-Defection Law calls for disqualification of members voting against their party unless at least two-third of a party’s MPs are willing for a “merger” with another.
The Left parties had throughout argued that there was a parliamentary majority against the deal — international agreements, however, do not require parliamentary approval — but this may not really get tested when the Lok Sabha meets to find out if the UPA still enjoys its confidence after the Left’s withdrawal of support over the nuclear deal. Such a test could have been possible only by a conscience vote rather than a vote that can be predicted by the adding of numbers.
The issue of whips makes powerful lobbies within a party — including non-elected people — seek to order parliamentary majority through commands to the MPs. Shahid Siddique, who has cosied up with the BSP after leaving the SP, has said that the deal is a national issue rather than a party issue and there should be no whip for the vote of confidence on Tuesday. However, former Solicitor General Harish Salve told a TV channel that the vote of confidence is not a referendum on the deal and that a whip is required so that MPs going against their parties may be liable for disqualification.
Political analysts, however, insist that the Anti-Defection Law is a necessary restraint of democracy.