The Supreme Court’s decision upholding the disqualification of 13 Uttar Pradesh MLAs is a welcome step since it shows that the anti-defection law actually has teeth. But the court’s ruling does not amount to expanding the authority of the Act. What it has done is to restrict the games that the Speaker of a House can play. In this case, the then Speaker and current BJP state President, Kesari Nath Tripathi, held the defection of the 13 Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs in abeyance, till another 24 joined them, taking the number to 37. This was needed to ensure that the defecting MLAs constituted one-third of the legislature party, the number required to avoid the penalty of disqualification as a defector. Fortuitously, as it appears, the rest of the defectors, too, are now in trouble because, with the disqualification of the 13, they do not have the numbers to escape the guillotine of the Act’s provisions. Their fate is likely to unravel in the coming days.
Whether or not the Mulayam Singh Yadav government will fall now is a matter of speculation. It would appear that with a divided Opposition, he does have the numbers. His floor performance on January 25, when he won the vote of confidence by 223 votes after an Opposition boycott, indicates that he does not lack muscle as of now. But with the activist Governor close on his heels, he may find the going sticky. Since elections are around the corner, the Opposition, too, cannot be blamed for trying to maximise Mr Yadav’s pain. Mr Yadav has taken the precaution of keeping the assembly session running to ensure he doesn’t face a sudden dismissal.
The issue really is what the people of the state will make of all the goings on. Certainly, this cannot add to the credibility of the Samajwadi Party, which has managed to cling to power ever since it took office under the dubious