Why Jignesh Mevani joined the Congress ‘in spirit’

Going by India’s anti-defection law, Independent Gujarat MLA Mevani would have been at risk of losing his membership of the Assembly.

Jignesh Mevani with student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, who joined the Congress on Tuesday.

Dalit rights leader and Independent Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani on Tuesday “extended his full support to the Congress” while not joining the party immediately for “technical reasons”.

The move has put into the spotlight the Tenth Schedule, included in the Constitution in 1985 through the 52nd amendment, defining India’s anti-defection laws. “An elected member of a House who has been elected as such otherwise than as a candidate set up by any political party shall be disqualified for being a member of the House if he joins any political party after such election,” it says.

Simply put, had Mevani joined the Congress, he would have been at risk of losing his membership of the Gujarat Assembly. “It was felt that since there is more than a year left for the Gujarat Assembly polls (due in the winter of 2022), it would not be appropriate to quit as a legislator,” a political leader was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.

The anti-defection law has been in focus for the past few years because of instances of legislators contesting on one party ticket and then switching to another after victory.


To the media, Mevani himself clarified that he had not joined the Congress officially: “According to the Constitution charter, officially joining any political party during my tenure may force me to abandon people of my constituency, which I shall not. However, I am proud to announce my full support to the Congress from today onwards and that I will be contesting the Gujarat Assembly elections 2022 with the symbol of the Congress.”

He also revealed that Rahul Gandhi, Congress’ de facto chief, told him that signing of the party membership form, officially, could be done later.

According to Mevani, he was supporting the Congress because the party had led the Independence struggle and ousted the Britishers from India. “To save democracy and the idea of India, I have to be with a party that led the Independence struggle and dragged the British out of the country. This is why I am here with the Congress today,” he said.

Under India’s anti-defection law, the power to decide the disqualification of an MP or MLA rests with the presiding officer of the legislature, the Speaker.

In 2019, the Karnataka Assembly Speaker had suspended an Independent MLA for joining the BJP days before the state’s Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress government collapsed. In 2010, five Karnataka MLAs were suspended when as they declared themselves as “associate BJP members”.

Also read: Not joining BJP, but won’t continue in Congress: Amarinder on meet with Shah