The Times of India

As Goa approaches the state assembly elections due on February 14, it stares at a damaging record in which 67% of the elected representatives in the 40-member house switched loyalties during the current term. This “unique record” is unparalleled in India’s democratic setup, said the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Between March 2017 and January 2022, as many as 27 MLAs changed their political affiliations with Congress being the most affected with 16 legislators of the party switching over. BJP has been the biggest beneficiary, records show.

“It has never happened anywhere else in India. A clear reflection of the utter disrespect to the mandate of voters. A callous approach to ethics and discipline overborne by uncontrolled greed at its worst,” said Goa state coordinator for ADR Bhasker Assoldekar.

Assoldekar said that Goa has set a unique record which is unparalleled in the history of Indian democracy.

And with the elections fast approaching, the season of shifting loyalties has taken centre stage.

“Such things erode the public confidence in democratic institutions. And now we have more players such as the All India Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party to erode democratic institutions,” former state election commissioner Prabhakar Timble said.

Timble said that with several political parties vying for the opposition space, disgruntled politicians are spoiled for choice. Given that the present anti-defection law failed to rein in defections, it has emboldened party hopping, said political watchers.

“With the courts having failed to adjudicate on those 2019 defections by the 10 plus two MLAs, it will be for the electorate to now cast their verdict and seal the fate of those who betrayed the mandate given to them,” advocate Aires Rodrigues said.

At the end of the day, Goa’s politicians reflect the electorate, said Timble, adding that in Shiroda, Valpoi and Mandrem, voters rewarded Shubhash Shirodkar, Vishwajit Rane and Dayanand Sopte despite the three switching from Congress to BJP.

“If the community worships defectors and puts them back into power, the MLA cannot be blamed. People are looking at the candidate, because for people, ideology does not matter,” Timble said.

In agreement, Assoldekar said, “I feel Goans have failed themselves in the last 35 years while deciding who their representatives should be. It is certainly good to expect a few things from the elected representatives. But there is an urgent need to expect quite a few things from the voters.”

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