New Delhi: The ongoing election in India is also a season for turncoats, which has seen top leaders and officials of various parties shifting political allegiances and jumping ship.
The number of floor-crossers featuring prominently across party lines leaves one to wonder if these defections are ideological or purely opportunistic.
At the national level, both Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been roping in leaders from other parties who either turned rebels or were denied tickets to contest elections.
Leading the pack of defectors this time is actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha, who left the BJP for Congress last month.
Due to his verbal attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sinha was denied a party ticket in the Patna Sahib constituency of Bihar.
Keen on fighting the election anyway, Sinha joined the Congress which fielded him in the same constituency against BJP leader and Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
This came close on the heels of another BJP leader, Kirti Azad, joining Congress.
Ties soured between Azad and the BJP after he publicly accused Union Minister Arun Jaitley of involvement in corruption in the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association (DDCA).
Azad is now contesting on a Congress ticket in Dhanbad, Jharkhand.
Elsewhere, Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi switched sides and defected to the hardline Shiv Sena last month.
Addressing media, she later said that she had been let down by Congress leadership for not taking any action against party colleagues who had misbehaved with her.
Chaturvedi said she was deeply saddened that “lumpen goons get preference in Congress over those who have given their sweat and blood”.
Another exit from Congress was Tom Vadakkan, a former All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary in Kerala and close aide of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Vadakkan defected to the BJP and defended his decision to switch sides.
He said he was upset because the grand old party “questioned the integrity of our armed forces” after the air strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan’s Balakot in February.
“If a political party takes such a position that is against the country then I am left with no option but to leave the party,” Vadakkan told media later.
Likewise, the BJP chose Sufi singer Hansraj Hans for North-West Delhi constituency, the only seat reserved for a person from a Scheduled Caste community in Delhi, while denying a ticket to sitting Member of Parliament Udit Raj.
Raj joined Congress after accusing the saffron party of being an anti-Dalit party.
“I have wanted to join the Congress for a long time and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi knows this. I don’t lie. If BJP would have given me a ticket from North-West Delhi, I would have fought from there. But because the party decided not to give me ticket, people wonder how anti-Dalit BJP is,” Raj tweeted after joining Congress.
Hans, who hails from Punjab, had joined BJP three years ago after having short political stints with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress.