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In the run-up to the 2021 West Bengal Assembly election, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) faced a setback with many party members joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, the BJP ended up losing the polls, which was followed by many turncoats making public appeals for a return to the TMC. The president of the state unit of the Congress in Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is all over in the news for criticising his own party, was once a BJP member. In Meghalaya, over two-thirds of Congress MLAs joined Mamata Banerjee’s outfit. This movement of MLAs led to the Congress losing its principal opposition status to Bengal’s ruling party. These are a few of the many examples that show the presence of defectors in Indian politics.

A turncoat in politics is a person who shifts allegiance from one political party to another. The prime motives for such a person to draw away from former allegiances are generally either retaining the status and privileges or getting more power and favour from the other party. One such example of this is Jyotiraditya Scindia, who switched sides from the Congress to the BJP, and was later appointed Union civil aviation minister. Another example is Suvendu Adhikari, a former protégé of Banerjee’s, who joined the BJP and defeated the TMC supremo in the 2021 West Bengal Assembly polls. He is now the leader of the Opposition in the state.

Another example is Mukul Roy, who had walked out on Banerjee in 2017 and joined the BJP with a pledge to strengthen the saffron party in Bengal. However, he returned to the TMC shortly after the 2021 Bengal polls despite winning the seat he contested. He was one of the many BJP members who re-joined the TMC after the state elections, like TMC’s Rajib Banerjee, who joined the BJP ahead of Assembly polls but returned to the TMC later. This shows the phenomenon described by the phrase coined decades ago—’Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram’ remains a truism in politics. After numerous such instances in the assembly polls held last year, the trend is continuing in states where elections are due in the next few months as party-hopping has already gained momentum.

We will discuss about the politicians switching sides, or are expected to do so, ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in five states—Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur—its impact on politicians and parties, the anti-defection laws, and more. But before this, let’s understand turncoats in detail.

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