During the National Conference-led coalition regime in 2011, seven BJP MLAs cross-voted in NC’s favor despite state having tougher anti-defection law. Though, as per the rules, the members were liable to disqualification from the legislature for crossing the party line, all of them escaped unpunished as the then Speaker sat on the decision.
Today, while the arithmetic doesn’t favor government formation in Jammu and Kashmir, but if the report about possible “political realignment” and BJP’s attempt to back a new political formation hold any shade of truth, the state may be in for yet another high-voltage political drama. Interestingly, the tougher anti-defection law doesn’t seem to reassures political parties including National Conference, which is right now the frontrunner for the dissolution of the assembly.
“It was National Conference-Congress combine in 2011 which trampled the (anti-defection) law for their political interests by entering into a nexus with BJP members,” said a former state bureaucrat.
In June 2014, months before his tenure as the Chief Minister ended, Omar Abdullah talked about the cross-voting by the BJP in favor of his government.
“Those who enacted drama before you here today, ask them if we (NC-Cong Government) had faults and were anti-Jammu, why did they (BJP MLAs) deceive their own party and voted for our candidate instead of their party candidate,” Omar was quoted as saying by PTI after BJP MLAs had staged a protest against the government during a function of power department in Jammu.
As per media reports the BJP is at the center of all the prevailing dram, though in a different role. The revolt by PDP members has triggered speculations that BJP is working on a coalition in which the party ally, Sajad Lone, could have a key role even though the party has refuted such reports. But many political developments ever since the demise of the PDP-BJP government and meeting of BJP’s point man with Lone here have kept the rumors floating.
According to legal experts number of MLAs wishing to desert a party should be two-third of party’s strength in the house to avoid action under the anti-defection law. PDP’s rebel MLA Abid Ansari has openly said that there were more than a dozen members within the party who feel suffocated by the “family raj” and were willing to join a new formation that would work for people. While the law empowers legislative party leader to have a final say about disqualifying a defecting member (s), some legal experts argue that in such a scenario the “role of speaker becomes important”, while citing 2011 scenario.
In J&K’s 87-member Assembly, PDP has 28 members; BJP has 25 members and support of one independent member; National Conference has 15 members; Congress has 12 members, Peoples Conference has two members.
With Lone’s Peoples Conference by its side and having support of independent MLA, the BJP would require support of 16 more legislators to form the government.
If reports about PDP suffering a “mass rebellion” within its ranks are true, the number of those walking out of the party fold need to be more than 18 in order to evade disqualification. “This time the Speaker is from BJP and we know when it comes to their role in such a scenario how they have acted in the past,” said a former state advocate general.