CHENNAI: Speaker P Dhanapal has ordered eviction of members of main opposition party, the DMK, from the Tamil Nadu assembly, but they are resisting. They stalled Chief Minister E Palaniswami’s trust vote, breaking chairs and a table, yanking out mics and throwing bits of paper. They also surrounded the Speaker and heckled him for not allowing secret voting in the trust vote; one MLA even sat on the Speaker’s chair. The trust vote was halted amid the chaos and the House has been adjourned repeatedly since. Mr Palaniswami, who took oath two days ago, moved the motion seeking a vote of confidence this morning but opposition members disrupted voting, angry that the Speaker did not allow a secret vote. He also turned down their demand that the vote be delayed. Mr Palaniswami, 63, is the proxy of AIADMK chief VK Sasikala who could not become Chief Minister because the Supreme Court has convicted her for corruption and sent her to jail.
He needs to prove that at least 117 legislators in the 234-member state assembly back him. He has the support of 122, excluding the Speaker, after another AIADMK legislator this morning withdrew his support. This means that even if six of them cross vote, he could lose.
Opposition parties the DMK and the Congress have sided with his rival O Paneerselvam, who resigned as chief minister 12 days ago, and has 11 of the AIADMK’s legislators on his side.
The DMK has said that its 88 legislators present today will vote against the Chief Minister – party chief M Karunanidhi is unwell and is not attending the special session. The Congress’ eight will also vote against Mr Palaniswami, as will the Indian Union of Muslim League or IUML’s one legislator.
Therefore right now, the chief minister has 122 supporting him and 109 against.
Some AIADMK legislators have reportedly complained in the house that they were restrained against their will at a resort where Ms Sasikala had sequestered them since last week to prevent defections.
Mr Panneerselvam, who says he was forced to resign as Chief Minister last week, has consistently alleged that most of the party’s MLAs were kept in “captivity” by Ms Sasikala at the five-star resort near Chennai. He too had staked claim for the top post but could not gather enough support.
A whip issued by the AIADMK for all party legislators to vote for Mr Palaniswami makes it tricky for those supporting Mr Panneerselvam. They can be disqualified as MLAs under the anti-defection law for voting against the party.
But the Panneerselvam camp holds that any order from VK Sasikala, whose appointment as interim general secretary they have challenged, is invalid and so the anti-defection law will not apply. The OPS Camp has petitioned the Election Commission, which has sought Ms Sasikala’s response by the end of the month.
Mr Panneerselvam, sworn in after the AIADMK’s powerful leader J Jayalalithaa died in December as chief minister, resigned last week to facilitate a takeover of the top post by Ms Sasikala, Ms Jayalalithaa’s closest companion for decades. When Ms Sasikala was convicted, she pushed her loyalist Mr Palaniswami for the post and he took oath along with a 30-member cabinet on Thursday.