Whips in Parliamentary Politics: A Complete Guide

Whips are a crucial aspect of parliamentary politics. They play a vital role in maintaining the organization of political parties within the parliament and ensuring the smooth functioning of the business of the House. In this article, we will delve deeper into the concept of whips, their types, functions, and constitutional status.

What is a Whip?

The concept of the whip was inherited from colonial British rule. It is used in parliamentary parlance often for floor management by political parties in the legislature. A whip is a written order issued by a political party to its members, directing them to be present for an important vote or to vote in a particular way. The term "whip" comes from the old British practice of "whipping in" lawmakers to follow the party line.

Types of Whips

There are three types of whips:

1. One-line whip: It informs the members about a vote and allows a member to abstain from following the party line.

2. Two-line whip: It directs the members to be present in the House at the time of voting, without any instructions on the pattern of voting.

3. Three-line whip: It is the strictest of all the whips and directs the members to vote as per the party line.

Functions of Whips

  1. The whip serves as a liaison between a political party's leadership and its members in parliament.
  2. The whip ensures that party members attend parliament in large numbers and are aware of the party's stance on specific issues.
  3. The whip regulates and monitors the behavior of party members in parliament to ensure that they adhere to the party's policies and procedures.
  4. Disciplinary action may be taken against members who fail to follow the whip's directives, including suspension or expulsion from the party.
  5. The whip manages the party's agenda and coordinates with other parties to advance the party's priorities, ensuring the smooth and efficient conduct of business on the floor of the House.
  6. The whip is responsible for identifying signs of discontent among party members and informing the respective party leaders, ensuring party unity and protecting the party's interests.
  7. The whip is a vital component of any political party's parliamentary strategy, and their effectiveness can have a significant impact on the party's success or failure.

Constitutional Status of Whips

The office of "whip" is not mentioned in the Constitution of India, the Rules of the House, or a Parliamentary Statute. It is based on the conventions of parliamentary government. However, there are some cases such as Presidential elections where whips cannot direct a Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) on whom to vote.

Violation of Whips

If an MP violates their party's whip, they face expulsion from the House under the Anti-Defection Act, except when more than a third of legislators vote against a directive, effectively splitting the party.

Role of Whips in Rajya Sabha Elections

  • Whips do not apply to Rajya Sabha elections because these elections are conducted by the Election Commission outside the legislative assembly.
  • Due to the absence of whips in Rajya Sabha elections, MLAs who cross-vote cannot be subjected to disciplinary action under the 10th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which deals with the anti-defection law.
  • This exemption allows MLAs to vote according to their personal preference, often referred to as a “conscience vote,” without the threat of disqualification for defying party orders.
  • This situation underscores a nuanced aspect of the anti-defection law that distinguishes between voting within the legislative assembly (where whips apply) and voting conducted externally by the Election Commission (where whips do not apply).


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