En masse defection is nothing new in the North-East. There had been instances of the entire legislature party re-labelling itself. Generally speaking, the MLAs would like to be in the party which is in power at the Centre. In the instant case, 12 Congress MLAs have defected to the Trinamool Congress. Since they constitute more than one third of the total of 17 MLAs, they will not attract the provisions of the anti-defection law. Former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who took the lead to defect, has not given a convincing reason for his action.
Sangma’s job became easier as the defectors included his own wife, daughter and younger brother, which means four from one family. Where family loyalty failed, tribal loyalty prevailed, making the defection easier. Interestingly, he blamed the Congress leadership for its inability to form a government despite emerging as the single largest party with 21 seats in the 60-member House.
He forgot that as a former chief minister the responsibility was as much his as it was of anyone. His argument that the Congress was unable to give a challenge to the ruling BJP was as spacious as the argument that the TMC was the natural destination for his MLAs.
The wholesale defection is one more feather in the cap of Prashant Kishore, who has been claiming credit for the great victory the West Bengal chief minister accomplished in the state elections. He is a professional whose services are available to anyone who meets his demand, provided he finds the atmosphere conducive for him. Organising defection does not call for a great intellectual acumen. How on earth can the BJP be defeated by weakening the single largest Opposition party when the TMC is a regional entity with no pan-India appeal?
No doubt, the development is a great setback for the Congress which has been reduced to a five-member party. The leadership knew that a rebellion had been brewing in the party but it could not make a timely decision. The Congress should know that when the BJP is able to take quick decisions, it cannot adopt a wait-and-watch policy. That is how the party lost power in Goa earlier and in Meghalaya later, when the party was unable to cobble together a majority. As Bismarck said famously, politics is the art of the possible and any party which fails to master this art fails miserably.