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Sunil Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Indora, Laxman Jagtap, Sampat Singh, Tukaram Gadakh, Pradeep Jaiswal. The list seems endless. More has been written about these contestants in the current round of assembly elections than probably at any point of time in their political career. Who are they and why have they attracted so much attention? They are rebels. They form a peculiar tribe: they are not contesting on party platforms that they have been long associated with but are fighting as independents or on tickets of other parties.
Rebellion, the refusal to obey collective decisions of the party, could have different causes; for example, it may not have nominated them (every election has added its share to this category). The question is: are rebels always disgruntled elements or do parties also purposefully create them, especially when there are incentives to "rebel"?
Most popular explanations for rebellions focus on the internal life of parties as organisations. The logic is simple: the more open and decentralised the nomination and candidate selection process, the more democratic the party is. The less centralised the decision-making, the greater the space for diversity of opinion, the lesser the possibilities of rebellion.
Sunil Deshmukh is a classic example. It was game over for the two-time MLA from Amravati and incumbent Maharashtra minister once the party decided to nominate Rajendra Singh Shekhavat from Amravati. His or the local unit's views were not sought; fire-fighting began only after he filed his nomination. Sampat Singh's decision to join the Congress in Haryana sends a similar message. Despite being a member of the Janata family for more than 30 years, he claimed that his position was constantly being undermined and there were no leadership positions available in the family-controlled INLD. On almost similar lines, three-time Kolhapur MP Sadashiv Mandlik accused Sharad Pawar of being a dictator when he quit the NCP to contest as an independent in the Lok Sabha elections in May.