In midnight drama Tuesday, two of the three Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party MLAs in Goa joined the BJP and merged the party’s legislative wing with the saffron party, which now has 14 legislators in the 36-member state assembly. The MGP has been an alliance partner of the BJP in Goa since 2012.
MLAs Manohar Ajgaonkar and Dipak Pauskar gave a letter to merge the MGP legislature party with the BJP to officiating Goa Assembly Speaker Michael Lobo at 1.45 am. However, Sudin Dhavalikar, the third MGP MLA and until then deputy chief minister, did not sign the letter and was subsequently dropped from the Cabinet.
The legislators broke away from the MGP and have formed a group — MGP (two) — and have merged the legislative unit with the BJP. Now, as two out of the three MLAs have merged the legislative wing, they are saved from inviting the anti-defection law.
What is the anti-defection law?
The anti-defection law, added to the Constitution as the Tenth Schedule by the 52nd amendment during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as the Prime Minister in 1985, makes it mandatory that two-thirds of the strength of a party should agree for a ‘merger’.
A legislator can be disqualified under the anti-defection law if he either voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or disobeys the directives of the party leadership on a vote. He is then disqualified.
“It may be noted that the total strength of the legislators of the MGP is three members and we constitute 2/3rd of the members. In view of sub-clause (2) of clause (4) of the Tenth Schedule, and in view of the fact that we constitute 2/3rd of the members of the legislative party such merger shall be deemed to have taken place,” Ajgaonkar and Pauskar wrote in their letter to the Speaker.
According to the Tenth Schedule, it requires at least two-third members of a legislature party to form a new political group or ‘merge’ with another political party without getting disqualified under the anti-defection law.
Previously, paragraph 3 of the Tenth Schedule recognised a ‘split’ if at least one-third members of the legislature party decided to form or join another political party. However, this provision was done away with by the 91st amendment to the Constitution in 2003.
The amendment, which came into force in January 2004, does not recognise a ‘split’ in a legislature party and instead, it recognises a ‘merger’.