Friday, December 3, 2021
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Conversions vs. Defections

By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao

It is not uncommon in English language to use two words for the same action. Thus, for the change of faith there are two different words. The change of religious faith is termed as ‘conversion’ while the change of political faith is called as ‘defection’. What is the difference between conversion to another religion and defecting to another political party?

A person born and brought up in a particular religion think that he is not getting the desired solace or spiritual wellbeing in praying to a particular God or following the specific way of prayer or being in a religion in which he is presently in. So to achieve a better ‘spirit’ he embraces new religious order. Once he founds a new solacing order he tries to erase all his earlier identities may be his name, attire and undergoes rituals and hope for ‘better life’. He or she may compel the family members to follow him into his chosen new religion as more the number more the benefits. This change is called ‘CONVERSION’.

Now consider what happens in the change of political faith. A person who joined a political party having like the political philosophy of that particular party. He may even attracted by the top leader of that party and the way that leader is conducting the party meetings and running the affairs of the party. However after spending few years in that party he may feel that he is not getting any expected gains in the form of positions or earnings and then he starts searching for parties where better options are available for him and better offers are made. The appointed day he throws away his old attire and takes new one and proclaim himself as a changed man. This is called ‘DEFECTION’ by the media. Defection happens along with the followers as here also the numerical strength which counts.

There are vociferous supporters for conversions as they have their own vested interests by standing with the conversion activity. They claim the constitutional support for conversions and say that it is the religious freedom as enshrined in the constitution of India. That argument is fair enough. But those conversion activists forget that till Anti-Defection Law was inserted by the 52nd Amendment to the constitution in 1985 political defections have constitutional mandate. In the said Law, defection was defined as “To abandon a position or association often to join an opposing group.

 The Law makers at that time felt that political defections are eating away into the political values, degrading the democracy bringing instability in the government and administration hence brought the Act.

Now some of the state governments are feeling the same way regarding the conversions. The massive conversion activity in certain states aide by foreign contributions and abetted by foreign groups inimical to the interests of India are contributing to the social unrest by bringing differences into the social groups. The villages are getting segregated on the basis of religion. The people who got converted starts heckling the age old beliefs of others thus provoking to retaliate. There is a tension filled social atmosphere where ever the Church activity gone up. When the ‘social pollution’ became unbearable and locals retaliate the Church leaders are projecting themselves as ‘victims’ with their international masters and media blowing it out. 

 The Laws to stop conversions to preserve the social harmony and maintain the social stability. But surprisingly those who brought the anti-defection Act and who supported that anti-defection Law is now opposing the anti-conversion Laws though both have similar objects. The anti-defection law took care of political stability and prevention of corrupt practices and the anti-conversion also aims at maintaining social harmony and preventing the money role in religious conversions.

The current prevention of religious conversions is not barring conversion per se but is aimed at mass conversions and conversion under pressure and using inducements just as Anti-defection Law put restrictions on defection of those holding elected positions and not others. Further the Act accepted mass defections of elected representatives.  Conversely, the new anti-conversion laws allow individual conversion and prohibits mass conversions.

Those encouraging political defections claim that there is no luring with money and positions for changing the party just the Church claim.  Those defecting in politics always say that they are joining the new party because of their new found love to ideology. Ditto is the case with converts who move to the new religion. No money, no inducement of what so ever is involved in their conversion and it is a pure soul shift with huge love to new God. The party who loses their members complain it as an unethical act done for money and the similar complaint comes from the religious groups which loses their numbers.

It is difficult to believe that political defections are happening without any hidden motive and offers and it is equally difficult to believe that money and other undesirable practices are not involved in conversion activity.

If defections are controlled by a Law to maintain ethical politics and stability in governments as they are needed for the progress of democracy and governance why not conversions can’t be regulated through law for the good of the society and demographical health. 

The anti-defection Law states that once defected the said member loses all his holding in the party he is leaving and that is parliament accepted position. Then the convert who chooses a new religion should also lose all his status in the earlier religion including caste identity. Surprisingly the makers of anti-defection Law now support the carrying of his old caste identity into new religion. Just as a defector can’t claim the benefits he enjoyed in the earlier party after defection the people who got converted can’t demand and get the benefits of his earlier religion. The anti-conversion Law is just like the anti-defections Law. So why should the provisions of one law be accepted and another be objected.

Let there be a debate on the desirability of controlling the defections and conversions at the national level. 

(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at duggarajusrinivasarao@gmail.com)

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