What is a whip?
A whip in parliamentary parlance is a written order that party members be present for an important vote, or that they vote only in a particular way. The term is derived from the old British practice of “whipping in” lawmakers to follow the party line.
In India all parties can issue a whip to their members. Parties appoint a senior member from among their House contingents to issue whips — this member is called a Chief Whip, and he/she is assisted by additional Whips.
Kinds of whips
The importance of a whip can be inferred from the number of times an order is underlined. A one-line whip, underlined once, is usually issued to inform party members of a vote, and allows them to abstain in case they decide not to follow the party line. A two-line whip directs them to be present during the vote. A three-line whip is the strongest, employed on important occasions such as the second reading of a Bill or a no-confidence motion, and places an obligation on members to toe the party line.
Defiance of whip
The penalty for defying a whip varies from country to country. In the UK, MPs can lose membership of the party, but can keep their House seats as Independents; in India, rebelling against a three-line whip can put a lawmaker’s membership of the House at risk. The anti-defection law allows the Speaker/ Chairperson to disqualify such a member; the only exception is when more than a third of legislators vote against a directive, effectively splitting the party.