14 August 2020 01:35 AM

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SEEMA MUSTAFA | 19 JULY, 2020

The 9 Defining Traits Of a Political Defector

A Sunday read


It is interesting, but over the years of covering politics, there are characteristics that defectors ---from one political party to another --share. And this is reflected yet again today, as was evident yesterday, and established a pattern through the day before.

Defectors might not like to recognise it but they have a certain core that remains common, regardless of whether one is pot-bellied and pan chewing and the other a suave, well dressed, English speaking politician. Of course defectors come in two categories, one the leaders and the others that make up the herd necessary for the numbers to fit the anti-defection law or topple/form a government. Here we will examine the leaders, who cross sides either on their own or as is more common take a few legislators with them.

Not a single party in India is without these defectors, and governments continue to be toppled and installed on the basis of these mercenaries. It was so rampant that a government had to bring in a law to stop it, or at least curtail it by making the move difficult. But even so defection remains the common artery in politicians, that is then nourished with money and power.

A party ticket to contest the elections is a carrot that has never ceased to lure ‘dissidents’ away and while this remains increasingly popular, it is competing with offers of top posts in government given the current penchant for bringing down elected governments. Posts in a party organisation are not attractive carrots perhaps because these are not seen as lucrative as a Ministers post for instance, and besides the old guard in the new party of choice might not be that welcoming of the defector.

Over the years these ‘leaders’ who cross over with band and baja from one party to the could be siblings insofar as traits are concerned. And it is these dominating traits that make them susceptible to the overtures of the opposing parties to a point where the offered carrot appears juicy, sweet and delicious. For a limited period of time only of course, with many becoming part of a political rollercoaster of defections as the months turn into years. Several names come to mind but for the purpose of this article one desists.Suffice it to say that defectors do not reach the top in the new parties they embrace, and often close their political trajectory by either returning to the parent party, or starting one-man shows of their own.

So here are nine characteristics that defectors share regardless of their physical appearances:

1. The defector always, repeat always, holds the view he or she is entitled to more than the parent party has given him. So if he is a PCC President he wants to be a Chief Minister, If he is a general secretary he wants to be a Union Minister. And switches sides to get the same, even as he blames the old party for not listening to him, for ignoring him, for not serving the people. And hence suffers from a sense of perceived injustice ---of not being given his due.

2. He is a bit of a narcissist as he is really all about himself. The other legislators are added on to make the package more attractive ---either to get the numbers to split a party or to topple a government---but it is really all about himself. He is the leader in negotiation, he gets the bulk of the offerings, including the top post. The rest remain the herd ---and have to be and often are satisfied with just the money.

3. He is sly. His negotiations are carried on in the dead of night so that he can surprise the party that actually nurtured him and brought him to a position where others find him worth negotiating for.

4. He is a hypocrite and a liar. He never says it as it is. He claims to speak for the people but does not hesitate to break the mandate they had given him, by moving from the one party to the other. He switches sides with ease, having opposed the new party earlier with the same glibness that he now criticises the old party. His word is meaningless and he can legitimise the devil so long as he gets the position that he is looking for.

5. He is a betrayer. He betrays the people who elected him on one party ticket. And did not expect him to leave midway for the party they have voted against. He can betray anyone and usually does as we have seen various defectors do during their respective political careers.

6. He is greedy. He never goes for free. Principles and values do not carry the weight he claims they do.

7. He is often gutless. He does not have the courage to form his own party. There have been some notable exceptions who have moved on to form their own parties and governments, but these seem to belong to the past. The archetypal defector claims huge support but does not have the courage to test this.

8. He is not a team player. Just does not know how. It is usually about me and myself. There have of course, been those who carved out new space for themselves, and run their own political parties with a fair degree of success. But like one said, these are all of the older 70+ generation.

9. He is not a great politician. He only thinks he is.

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