Mandate 2014 is producing turncoats by the baker’s dozen, and no party seems to be tiring of it.
Switching parties, part of the poll drill in India, is often an indicator of which party has an edge though opportunism rules at the expense of ideology. But, poll pundits say, the scale is alarming this time.
In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, for instance, 29 candidates defected this time to BJP from other parties. “Winnability of a candidate is taken into consideration,” said Mangal Pandey, Bihar unit president of BJP, which inducted four leaders from friend-turned-foe Janata Dal (United).
The defections might have buoyed the BJP but the JD (U) has retaliated by inducting five leaders from the saffron party. Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s party also has three more outsiders than the BJP’s 10.
Accommodating turncoats can be a boon as well as a bane. Jagdambika Pal , who was chief minister of UP for three days, switched from Congress to BJP with ease and helped end the latter’s search for an ideal candidate for Dumariyaganj.
On the other hand, BJP angered senior leader Jaswant Singh by fielding ex-Congress leader Sonaram Chaudhary from Barmer in Rajasthan. Chaudhary got the ticket hours after joining BJP.
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Likewise, fielding Jharkhand Mukti Morcha turncoats from key seats like Jamshedpur and Rajmahal at the cost of devoted and experienced party cadres has caused resentment among BJP workers in Jharkhand. “Tempers cool as the polls draw near,” a BJP leader said.
Search for greener pastures aside, some switch parties to resurrect their political career after getting a ‘raw deal’. Amar Singh was in the wilderness after Samajwadi Party expelled him in 2010. Rashtriya Lok Dal gave him a ticket to taken on SP from western UP.
SP expelled Singh’s protégé and actor Jaya Prada too. But her joining the RLD with Singh is more of a case of following the leader, among the rarer of reasons for party-hopping.
Kalyan Singh , three-time UP chief minister, has had a love-hate relationship with the BJP, the party he quit and joined twice. Having contested the last Lok Sabha election as an independent from Etah backed by SP, he has returned to BJP but chose to get a party ticket for son Rajveer Singh in the hope of a Rajya Sabha berth.
In Karnataka, it is more of a homecoming for former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa and B Sriramulu. The BJP had no qualms about welcoming them back after abandoning them earlier owing to allegations of large-scale corruption.
Established parties are not the only one attracting turncoats. RLD’s Baba Hardeo Singh, a former bureaucrat, moved to the Aam Aadmi Party to try his luck.
(With inputs from Ranchi, Jaipur, Karnal and Bangalore)