Horse trading has been plaguing Indian politics for a long time now. MPs and MLAs turn into prime properties, ready to be traded, especially during times of political churning. Political parties adopt unscrupulous tactics to poach or influence their own members or from another party. In most of the cases, the defectors are awarded top positions and other benefits. But, Indian politics takes horse trading to another level.
On many occasions MLAs have been shepherded to isolated locations — the most popular choice being a resort — and kept arguably against their wishes till the heat cools down.
1. Congress in 2017: In the wake of Rajya Sabha elections, the Congress party sent 44 of its MLAs from Gujarat to a resort in Karnataka’s capital Bengaluru. The move comes amid defections from the party after Shankar Singh Vaghela exit. This has put the reelection of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel in doubt.
Since Thursday, at least six MLAs loyal to Shankar Singh Vaghela have resigned. Vaghela left the party after the Congress did not name him as their Chief Ministerial face for the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections. The Congress alleged crores were being spent to fund defections, a claim denied by the BJP.
2. Sasikala and AIADMK: In February 2017, V K Sasikala ordered over 100 legislators from the AIADMK to stay put at a plush resort in Kuvathur near Mahabalipuram, an hours drive from Chennai. The members were afforded every luxury at the resort except for their freedom to move around and to communicate with the outside world. However, some MLAs later said that they had switched off their phones on their own. Only a select few spoke to the media that was camped outside the Golden Bay resort. The security was such that the villagers living nearby complained of harassment.
Ahead of the crucial trust vote in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, Sasikala was stopping her MLAs from defecting to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam’s camp. According to media reports, most of the hotel staff was restricted from interacting with the MLAs and using their mobile phones too. Meanwhile, the Madras High Court had asked the police to find the “missing” MLAs to avoid a hostage crisis. Another small group of MLAs was kept at a separate resort in Kalpakkam.
3. Congress in Uttarakhand: In early 2016, Uttarakhand was hit with crisis after nine Congress MLAs rebelled against the Harish Rawat government. With the Governor calling for a floor test, 27 BJP MLAs were sent to the national Capital. From there, they were moved to Jaipur in Rajasthan and, subsequently, to Pushkar. The party didn’t want to leave the trust vote to chance and hoped to stop the Congress from poaching their legislators. Before the scheduled trust vote on March 31, the MLAs were kept away even on Holi and were taken to a resort in Vikasnagar, near Dehradun.
4. Congress, JD (S) and BJP conundrum: In 2010, 11 rebel Karnataka MLAs were found to be staying at a five-star hotel in Goa. The BJP alleged that they were kidnapped by the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular. According to an IANS report, BJP leader Ramesh Katti told reporters that senior officials from the Goa police were also used to move the legislators out of a hotel with the help of hired goons. BJP was trying to lure back seven of its rebel MLAs and six independents.
5. YSR Congress and TDP: The YSR Congess and the Telugu Desam Party were drawing daggers in Andhra Pradesh last year when MLAs from the YSR Congress were defecting to Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP. At least 13 MLAs defected to the TDP and YSR Congress chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy complained to the state governor and accused TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu of horse trading.