Lok Sabha elections 2019: Congress poll manifesto may push for a stronger anti-defection law

The Congress is likely to pledge changes to the anti-defection law to ensure automatic disqualification of lawmakers in case they switch parties, apart from promises such as a minimum income guarantee for the poor and various agrarian and indirect tax changes, in the party’s manifesto that will be released on Tuesday ahead of the staggered national polls from April 11.

People with direct knowledge of the matter said that the party, in its draft manifesto, has proposed that a speaker of an assembly should no longer have the authority to disqualify defectors.

The Congress has lost nine of its 19 legislators to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) since December 2018 state elections.

These are among a series of defections the party has faced in states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Telangana, Karnataka and Gujarat since 2014, when it lost power to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre.

The anti-defection law was added to the Constitution as the 10th Schedule through the 52nd amendment in 1985, when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. It says that lawmakers can be disqualified if they voluntarily give up their membership, abstain, or vote contrary to a party’s directives in Parliament and the state assemblies. It specifies that only two-third members of a party can form a new political group or merge with another party.

The Congress is also likely to promise martyr status for central paramilitary forces personnel killed in action.

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