THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 August 2019 (Unethical actions: On Sikkim MLAs defection (The Hindu))

Unethical actions: On Sikkim MLAs defection (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Sikkim Assembly
Mains level: Anti defection law crisis in Sikkim

Context

  • The switching of sides by 10 MLAs from the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) to the Bharatiya Janata Party in Sikkim on Tuesday and later two others from the SDF to the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) brings a sense of deja vu.

Background

  • The en masse shifts are reminiscent of what happened in Arunachal Pradesh in 2016, when rebel Congress MLAs joined the People’s Party of Arunachal in order to get over the legal hurdles to defection.
  • These actions have reduced the SDF, which ruled the State for 25 years with Pawan Kumar Chamling as the Chief Minister with the longest tenure in India, to just one MLA Mr. Chamling himself.
  • Such a shift might well have helped the former SDF legislators stay clear of the anti-defection law, which stipulates that a breakaway group must constitute at least two-thirds of the legislative party’s strength and that it must merge with another party.
  • As the elections to the Sikkim legislative Assembly were held barely three months ago and the BJP had come a cropper without winning a single seat and just 1.6% of the overall vote.
  • The BJP has shown no qualms as seen elsewhere in Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh among others about poaching legislators instead of winning over support organically through a democratic mandate.

Facing anti-defection law

  • The Sikkim defections have added yet another chapter to the hollowing out of the anti-defection law.
  • The SDF, which finished with 15 seats (two since vacated), was a National Democratic Alliance member, but has now been replaced by the 18-member SKM in the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance.
  • The SKM might have secured a clearer majority with the defection of two SDF MLAs to its fold, but a cloud of uncertainty hangs over its party leader and Chief Minister P.S. Golay alias Prem Singh Tamang.
  • Mr. Golay was convicted in 2016 in a case of corruption and had served a sentence in prison for a year till August 2018. The People’s Representation Act, 1951, mandates that a person convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act cannot contest an election for six years after release.

Way forward

  • The fact that he is serving as the Chief Minister (he did not contest the Assembly polls) despite the conviction goes directly against a Supreme Court order in a similar case dealing with the eligibility of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in 2001.
  • The court had then said that the “appointment of a person to the office of Chief Minister who is not qualified to hold it should be struck down at the earliest”.
  • In line with the drastic change in the party composition in the Assembly due to the defections, the continuance of Mr. Golay as chief minister makes a mockery of democratic and legal principles. Something is rotten in the State of Sikkim.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the religious practices in India, the “Terapanthi” sect belongs to
(a) Jainism
(b) Buddhism
(c) Sikhism
(d) Hinduism

Answer: A
Mains Questions:

Q.1) The mass defection of MLAs makes a mockery of democracy in Sikkim. Comment.

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