Madras High Court extends its stay order on a floor test in the Tamil Nadu Assembly
T N Venkatesan
To check mate the rivals in their pitch and to give much-needed oxygen for at least another six-months to the dying unified Edapadi Palaniswamy—O Panneerselvam Government that has been reduced to minority, TN Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal disqualified 18 MLAs now owing allegiance to TTV Dinakaran. With this, play of political throne has begun and Dinakaran setting deadline to topple the Government with the help of slipper cell. The latest move is expected to help EPS to concentrate on governance forgetting about the internal quarrels.
Banner of Revolt
Only recently the two factions led by former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and the EPS faction had united after protracted parleys on coveted posts. But the 18 AIADMK MLAs supporting TT V Dinakaran, the nephew of jailed Party leader VK Sasikala raised a banner of revolt demanding EPS should step down. They have been fighting for securing some political space for their boss Dinakaran in the AIADMK. The rebels have openly accused the EPS Government of being corrupt. Sasikala, who was elected General Secretary of the Party in December last year and her appointee deputy general secretary Dinakaran before her jail stint in February this year, were removed from their respective posts. This has angered them further. Dinakaran was not even allowed to visit the Party office at Lloyds Road. The 18 MLAs were given show cause notice thrice to come in person and explain their deeds. The 18 disqualified MLAs had earlier failed to respond to summons from the Speaker after 19 MLAs met Governor C Vidyasagar Rao and submitted separate letters withdrawing support to the Palaniswamy Government earlier this month. One MLA from that group, STK Jakkaiyan, later withdrew his letter and announced his support for the ruling group. In his order, the Speaker recalled DMK leader MK Stalin”s visit to the Raj Bhavan to meet the Governor and seek a floor test against the EPS Government after 19 MLAs withdrew support to the Chief Minister. “I cannot view this as an isolated act or an unconnected incident. It is quite evident that the respondents herein have deviated from their loyalty to their party and have voluntarily taken the side of an Opposition party,” he said. “These facts have lead to the conclusion that the respondents have in fact moved away from the ideology of the Party and the Political party itself.“ While the dissidents have been sheltering under the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Karnataka case involving the Yeddyruppa Government, the Speaker rejected the claims.
Strength of State Assembly Reduced
The current move effectively reduces the State Assembly to 216 seats with 116 AIADMK MLAs, including the Speaker. It also brings the total number of AIADMK seats lying vacant to 19, following the death of J Jayalalithaa in December last year. The Opposition has a strength of 98, including 89 MLAs of DMK, eight of Congress and one of the IUML. Chief Minister E Palaniswamy took this bold step knowing well its implication because of two factors. One is Modi Government at the Centre wants it to run for full terms i.e. the remaining period. Secondly, not to give any opportunity to DMK-Congress
combine to grab power. Speaker is with them with his sky high powers, can be used to achieve these twin goals as a trouble-shooter.
Dinakaran hit out at CM Palaniswamy and deputy CM O Panneerselvam by stating that the “traitors would be sent home by this month-end” and that his team was approaching the court for legal remedy . “We will participate in a floor test for sure,” he said. Dinakaran said Palaniswamy is like Aurangazeb and he was misusing his power and position to propagate a false campaign against him (Dinakaran).
Leaders from Dinakaran camp said, “Our 18 MLAs have been disqualified on the allegation that they were planning to commit a violation in case of a floor test. If it was such a heinous crime, Panneerselvam and his 10 MLAs should be disqualified first as they had already committed this crime during the floor test in February. There was a complaint filed at that time by MLA P Vetrivel to the Speaker seeking action against Panneerselvam. What happened to that?” The DMK’s deputy floor leader S Duraimurugan described the Speaker’s decision as “nothing but a murder of democracy”. “The MLAs were disqualified for merely expressing their differences outside the Assembly. I have lost respect for the Speaker,” he added.
Not For the First Time
This is the not the first time anti disqualification law was used. The State has witnessed the defeat of no-confidence motions on 12 occasions and adoption of vote of confidence motion four times. In 1995, two former AIADMK ministers G Viswanathan and Alagu Thirunavukkarasu were disqualified after they joined MDMK. Earlier, the famous disqualification of 33 MLAs by Speaker P H Pandian in 1988 after the death of former chief minister M G Ramachandran grabbed headlines. The anti-defection law came into effect in 1985 to prevent frequent crossing over of legislators from one Party to another.
“Between 2000 and 2017, Anti defection law (Schedule 10) could have been used at least twice, but the respective Party whips did not press for it. The first time was between 2011 and 2016 when eight DMDK MLAs rebelled against the party leadership and were treated as a separate group. The DMDK did not press for action under the anti-defection law as they would have lost their Opposition Party status.“ The AIADMK did not press for disqualification of 11 MLAs supporting AIADMK (Puratchithalaivi Amma) and Mylapore MLA R Natraj who voted against the whip issued on February 18 this year when the Palaniswamy Government moved the confidence motion” pointed out a former official. “DMK has not played its cards well. It is bent on indulging in statement war. It should have brought a no confidence motion. Might be it was not sure of whether to give notice for a no confidence motion and not getting support of the AIADMK rebel MLAs,” said a journalist.
Madras High Court Issues Stay Order
Meanwhile, the Madras High Court on September 20 has extended its stay order on a floor test in the Tamil Nadu Assembly till further directions. Justice M Duraiswamy gave the order while hearing a batch of petitions challenging the disqualification of 18 rebel AIADMK MLAs belonging to the Dinakaran camp by the Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal. There was also no stay of the disqualification of the MLAs. The judge had on September 14 ordered there will be no floor test till 20th. The judge also directed that no poll notification would be issued for the 18 Assembly seats falling vacant due to disqualification of the dissident MLAs.