UPDATED: March 16, 2021 10:09 IST
With BJP fielding nominated Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta in the upcoming West Bengal Assembly elections, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra has said he could be disqualified for filing nomination as a BJP candidate under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.
BJP has fielded Dasgupta, one of its prominent faces in West Bengal, from the Tarakeshwar Assembly seat in Hoogly district. TMC is all set to move a motion for the disqualification of Dasgupta from the Upper House.
Mahua Moitra raised the issue on Twitter and attached the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution to her tweet. “Swapan Dasgupta is BJP candidate for WB polls. 10th Schedule of Constitution says nominated RS member to be disqualified if he joins any political party AFTER expiry of 6 months from oath. He was sworn in April 2016, remains unallied. Must be disqualified NOW for joining BJP,” Moitra tweeted.
In another tweet, Moitra said, “As of today, Dasgupta remains nominated and not a member of the BJP.”
According to Para 2 (3) of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, “A nominated member of a House shall be disqualified for being a member of the House if he joins any political party after the expiry of six months from the date on which he takes his seat.”
Reacting to the development, Dasgupta said, “All outstanding issues will be resolved before nomination process.” Last week, Dasgupta had welcomed his nomination from Tarakeshwar seat. “Honoured to be nominated by the West Bengal BJP to contest from Tarakeshwar — a centre of Bengal’s cultural heritage. I look forward to the campaign for a new, vibrant Sonar Bangla,” he had tweeted.
Till Monday night, the Rajya Sabha website listed him as a nominated member and not a member of the BJP. (see picture)
Dasgupta was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Narendra Modi government in April 2016. Earlier, MPs like Subramanian Swamy, Rakesh Sinha and Sonal Mansingh had listed ‘BJP’ as their party affiliation. Dasgupta had time till October 2016 to do the same.
Constitutional expert and former Lok Sabha secretary general Subhash Kashyap said, “The issue has to be taken to the Rajya Sabha chairman and only he can adjudicate on the issue. But the rules are clear. If a nominated member of the Upper House does not attach himself to a party within six months of taking oath and goes ahead and files nomination on behalf of a political party, he or she can face disqualification under anti-defection laws.”
Kashyap said there has been no such precedent in the past. Other experts said that the TMC challenge was potent and Dasgupta could face disqualification.
Top BJP sources admitted that the facts pointed out by Moitra were true and it was looking into several legal and constitutional aspects.
“Dasgupta has been picked by the party to contest from an Assembly seat. He has neither filed his nomination nor contested. The question is does that amount to joining a party as the 10th schedule lays down,” a BJP leader said.
Another Bengal leader said, “The party still has time to withdraw. But in a fiercely contested campaign, that would lead to some loss of face for BJP. It seems that’s what the TMC’s game plan is.”
The last date for filing nomination for the Tarakeshwar seat, which votes in the third phase of Bengal polls, is March 19. BJP still has the time and option to announce another candidate.
But BJP may do that if it is established that “his nomination as BJP candidate in an official party list alone does not amount to joining a party and thus does not violate the anti-defection law”.