In a recent judgement, the Karnataka High Court upheld the disqualification of five independent MLAs from the Assembly. These MLAs, who had previously served as Ministers in the Yeddyurappa government, were disqualified along with 11 others after they withdrew their support to the government. The disqualifications raise some important questions on the working of the anti-defection law. While the law was framed in 1985 with the specific intent of 'combating the evil of political defections', over the years several unanticipated consequences have come to the fore. The primary among these is the erosion of independence of the average legislator. The need for an anti-defection law was first felt in the late 1960s. Of the 16 States that went to polls in 1967, Congress lost majority in eight and failed to form the government in seven. Thus began the era of common minimum programmes and coalition governments. This was accompanied with another development - the phenomenon of large scale political migrations. Within a brief span of 4 years (1967-71), there were 142 defections in Parliament and 1969 defections in State Assemblies across the country. Thirty-two governments collapsed and 212 defectors were rewarded with ministerial positions. Haryana was the first State where a Congress ministry was toppled. The Bhagwat Dayal ministry was defeated in the Assembly when its nominee for speakership lost out to another candidate. Congress dissidents defected to form a new party called the Haryana Congress, entered into an alliance with the opposition and formed a new government under the Chief Ministership of Rao Birender Singh (also a Congress defector). Haryana thus became the first State to reward a defector with Chief Ministership. Another Haryana legislator, Gaya Lal, defected thrice within a fortnight. The now well know terms 'Aya Ram' and 'Gaya Ram' that are often used to describe political turncoats owe inspiration to him. It was to address this issue that the anti-defection law was passed in 1985. This law amended the Constitution and added the Tenth Schedule to the same. The Supreme Court, in Kihota Hollohon vs. Zachilhu (1992), while upholding the validity of the law held that decisions of disqualification shall be open to judicial review.  It also made some observations on Section 2(1) (b) of the Tenth schedule. Section 2(1) (b) reads that a member shall be disqualified if he votes or abstains from voting  contrary to any direction issued by the political party. The judgement highlighted the need to limit disqualifications to votes crucial to the existence of the government and to matters integral to the electoral programme of the party, so as not to 'unduly impinge' on the freedom of speech of members. This anti-defection law has regulated parliamentary behaviour for over 25 years now. Though it has the advantage of providing stability to governments and ensuring loyalty to party manifestos, it reduces the accountability of the government to Parliament and curbs dissent against party policies. In this context, Manish Tewari's private member bill merits mention:  he suggests that anti-defection law be restricted to votes of confidence and money bills.  Such a move will retain the objective of maintaining the stability of the government while allowing MPs to vote freely (subject to the discipline of the party whip) on other issues. This brings us to the question - Is the anti-defection law indispensable? Is defection peculiar to India? If not, how do other countries handle similar situations? It is interesting to note that many advanced democracies face similar problems but haven't enacted any such laws to regulate legislators. Prominent cases in UK politics include the defection of Ramsay Macdonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, in 1931. He defected from his party following disagreements on policy responses to the economic crisis. Neither Macdonald nor any of his three cabinet colleagues who defected with him resigned their seats in the House of Commons to seek a fresh mandate. Australian Parliament too has had its share of defections. Legislators have often shifted loyalties and governments have been formed and toppled in quick succession. In the US too, Congressmen often vote against the party programme on important issues without actually defecting from the party. India might have its peculiar circumstances that merit different policies.  But, the very fact that some other democracies can function without such a law should get us thinking. Sources/ Notes: [1] PRS Conference note: The Anti-Defection Law – Intent and Impact [2] Column by CV Madhukar (Director, PRS) titled 'Post-independents' in the Indian Express

Early this week, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India tabled a report on the finances of Uttar Pradesh for the financial year 2020-21.  A few days prior to that, on May 26, the budget for Uttar Pradesh for 2022-23 was presented, along with which the final audited expenditure and receipt figures for the year 2020-21 were released.  The year 2020-21 presented a two-fold challenge for states – loss in revenue due to impact of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, and the need for increased expenditure to support affected persons and economic recovery.  CAG noted that Uttar Pradesh’s GSDP grew by 1.05% in 2020-21 as compared to a growth of 6.5% in 2019-20.  The state reported a revenue deficit of Rs 2,367 crore in 2020-21 after reporting revenue surplus for 14 successive years since 2006-07.  Revenue deficit is the excess of revenue expenditure over revenue receipts.  This blog looks at the key trends in the finances of Uttar Pradesh in 2020-21 and certain observations by CAG on fiscal management by the state.

Spending and Deficits in 2020-21

Underspending:  In 2020-21, total spending by the state was 26% less than the budget estimate presented in February 2020.  In sectors such as water supply and sanitation, the actual expenditure was 60% less than the amount budgeted, while in agriculture and allied activities only 53% of the budgeted amount was spent.  CAG observed that in 251 schemes across 57 departments, the state government did not incur any expenditure in 2020-21.  These schemes had a budget provision of at least one crore rupees, and had cumulative allocation of Rs 50,617 crore.  These included schemes such as Pipe Drinking Water Scheme in Bundelkhand/Vindhya and apportionment of pension liabilities.  Moreover, the overall savings due to non-utilisation of funds in 2020-21 was 27.28% of total budget provisions.  CAG observed that the budgetary provisions increased between 2016 and 2021.  However, the utilisation of budget provisions reduced between 2018-19 and 2020-21.

Pattern of spending: CAG observed that in case of 12 departments, more than 50% of the expenditure was incurred in March 2021, the last month of the financial year.  In the civil aviation department, 89% of the total expenditure was incurred in March while this figure was 62% for the social welfare department (welfare of handicapped and backward classes).  CAG noted that maintaining a steady pace of expenditure is a sound practice under public financial management.  However, the Uttar Pradesh Budget Manual has no specific instructions for preventing such bunching of expenditure.  The CAG recommended that the state government can consider issuing guidelines to control the rush of expenditure towards the closing months of the financial year.

Management of deficit and debt: As a measure to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, an Ordinance was promulgated in June 2020 to raise the fiscal deficit limit from 3% of GSDP to 5% of GSDP for the year 2020-21.   Fiscal deficit represents the gap between expenditure and receipts in a year, and this gap is filled with borrowings.   The Uttar Pradesh Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2004 (FRBM Act) passed by Uttar Pradesh Assembly specifies the upper limit for debt and deficits.  The Ordinance thus permitted the state government to borrow more to sustain its budget expenditure.  The fiscal deficit of the state in 2020-21 was 3.20% of GSDP, well below the revised limit. At the same time, the state’s outstanding debt to GSDP in 2020-21 was 32.77% of GSDP, above the target of 32% of GSDP set under the FRBM Act.  Outstanding debt represents accumulation of debt over the years.  

Table 1: Spending by Uttar Pradesh in 2020-21 as compared to Budget Estimates (in Rs crore)


2020-21 BE

2020-21 Actuals

% change from BE to Actuals

Net Receipts (1+2)




1. Revenue Receipts (a+b+c+d)




a. Own Tax Revenue




b. Own Non-Tax Revenue




c. Share in central taxes




d. Grants-in-aid from the Centre




Of which GST compensation grants




2. Non-Debt Capital Receipts




3. Borrowings




Of which GST compensation loan




Net Expenditure (4+5+6)




4. Revenue Expenditure




5. Capital Outlay




6. Loans and Advances




7. Debt Repayment




Revenue Balance




Revenue Balance (as % of GSDP)




Fiscal Deficit




Fiscal Deficit (as % of GSDP)




Note: A negative revenue balance indicates a deficit.  The actual fiscal deficit reported by Uttar Pradesh for 2020-21 in 2022-23 budget was 2.8% of GSDP.  This difference was due to higher GSDP figure reported by the state.  
Sources: Uttar Pradesh Budget Documents of various years; CAG; PRS.

Finances of State Public Sector Undertakings

Public sector undertakings (PSUs) are set up by the government to discharge commercial activities in various sectors.  As on March 31, 2021, there were 115 PSUs in Uttar Pradesh.  CAG analysed the performance of 38 PSUs.   Out of these 38 PSUs, 22 companies earned a profit of Rs 700 crore, while 16 companies posted a loss of Rs 7,411 crore in 2020-21.  Note that both the number of PSUs incurring losses and the quantum of losses has decreased since 2018-19.  In 2018-19, 20 PSUs had reported losses worth Rs 15,219 crore.  

Figure 1: Cumulative losses incurred by Uttar Pradesh PSUs (Rs crore)
 Sources: CAG; PRS.

Losses of power sector PSUs: Three power sector PSUs—Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited, Purvanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited, and Paschimanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited—were the top loss incurring PSUs.  These three PSUs accounted for 73% of the total losses of Rs 7,411 crore mentioned above.   Note that as of June 2022, for each unit of power supplied, the revenue realised by UP power distribution companies (discoms) is 27 paise less than cost of supply.  This is better than the gap of 34 paise per unit at the national level.   However, the aggregate technical and commercial losses (AT&C) of the Uttar Pradesh discoms was 27.85%, considerably higher than the national average of 17.19%.  AT&C losses refer to the proportion of power supplied by a discom for which it does not receive any payment.

Off-budget borrowings: CAG also observed that the Uttar Pradesh government resorted to off-budget borrowing through state owned PSUs/authorities.  Off budget borrowings are not accounted in the debt of the state government and are on books of the respective PSUs/authorities, although, debt is serviced by the state government.  As a result, the outstanding debt reported in the budget does not represent the actual debt position of the state.  CAG identified off-budget borrowing worth Rs 1,637 crore.  The CAG recommended that the state government should avoid extra-budget borrowings.  It should also credit all the loans taken by PSUs/authorities on behalf of and serviced by the state government to state government accounts.

Management of Reserve Funds

The Reserve Bank of India manages two reserve funds on the behalf of state governments.   These funds are created to meet the liabilities of state governments.  These funds are: (i) Consolidated Sinking Fund (CSF), and (ii) Guarantee Redemption Fund (GRF).  They are funded by the contributions made by the state governments.  CSF is an amortisation fund which is utilised to meet the repayment obligations of the government.  Amortisation refers to payment of debt through regular instalments.  The interest accumulated in the fund is used for repayment of outstanding liabilities (which is the accumulation of total borrowings at the end of a financial year, including any liabilities on the public account).  

In line with the recommendation of the 12th Finance Commission, Uttar Pradesh created its CSF in March 2020.  The state government may transfer at least 0.5% of its outstanding liabilities at the end of the previous year to the CSF.  CAG observed that in 2020-21, Uttar Pradesh appropriated only Rs 1,000 crore to the CSF against the requirement of Rs 2,454 crore.  CAG recommended that the state government should ensure at least 0.5% of the outstanding liabilities are contributed towards the CSF every year.

GRF is constituted by states to meet obligations related to guarantees.  The state government may extend guarantee on loans taken by its PSUs.  Guarantees are contingent liabilities of the state government, as in case of default by the company, repayment burden will fall on the state government.  GRF can be used to settle guarantees extended by the government with respect to borrowings of state PSUs and other bodies.  The 12th Finance Commission had recommended that states should constitute GRF.  It was to be funded through guarantees fees to meet any sudden discharge of obligated guarantees extended by the states.  CAG noted that Uttar Pradesh government has not constituted GRF.  Moreover, the state has also not fixed any limits for extending guarantees.  

For an analysis of Uttar Pradesh’s 2022-23 budget, please see here.