Palaniswamy faces floor test in Assembly on Saturday, DMK to vote against him
Chennai, February 17, 2017
Tamil Nadu's new Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswamy will take a floor test in the Legislative Assembly here tomorrow even as the in-fighting in the ruling AIADMK continued and the Opposition DMK decided to vote against him today.
When Mr. Palaniswami, who was sworn in yesterday bringing the curtains down on ten days of high political drama, moves a motion of confidence in his government tomorrow, it will be the first time in nearly three decades that the Tamil Nadu Assembly will witness such an exercise.
Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao had, while appointing him, given him two weeks to prove his majority but the Chief Minister has decided to do it at the first opportunity.
Speaker P. Dhanapal has convened a special sitting of the Assembly at 1100 hours tomorrow for the purpose.
The ruling AIADMK has a strength of 135 MLAs in the 236-member Assembly. One seat is vacant following the death of Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016.
The DMK has 89 members while its allies, the Congress and the IUML have eight and one seat, respectively. Mr. Palaniswami needs the support of 117 MLAs to win the trust vote and continue as Chief Minister.
The AIADMK faction led by its general secretary V. K. Sasikala -- who ended up in a Bangalore jail on Wednesday after being convicted in a 20-year-old corruption case -- to which Mr. Palaniswami belongs, claims the support of 123 MLAs, while the rival camp headed by his predecessor O. Panneerselvam has so far got open backing from only 11 party legislators. The Speaker's vote will come into the picture only if there is a tie.
Ahead of the vote, a delegation from the Panneerselvam camp met Speaker Dhanapal at the State Secretariat today. They are believed to have urged him to call for secret ballot during the floor test.
The AIADMK's MLA from Mylapore and retired police officer R. Nataraj, meanwhile, announced his support for Mr. Panneerselvam, popularly called OPS, today. The camp is hoping that some more MLAs from the rival faction will switch their allegiance to it before the vote.
Meanwhile, the DMK MLAs held a meeting chaired by its working president M. K. Stalin, the leader of the Opposition, and decided to vote against Mr. Palaniswami, while the Congress said it would announce its strategy tomorrow.
All the 89 MLAs of the DMK were present at the meeting, at which they were directed to be present in the House tomorrow and vote against the motion of confidence. The IUML also said it would vote against Mr. Palaniswami.
All the three opposition parties have a combined strength of 98 MLAs in the Assembly.
Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state in the early hours of December 6, 2016 shortly after Ms. Jayalalithaa had passed away here late on the previous night.
The current crisis in the party began on February 5, when Ms. Sasikala was chosen by AIADMK MLAs as the new leader of its legislature party and, therefore, Mr. Panneerselvam's successor. OPS resigned the same day, and Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao accepted his resignation on February 6, but asked him to continue in office until alternative arrangements were made.
Ms. Sasikala staked claim to forming the next government in the state, but Mr. Rao did not respond to it for various reasons, including the fact that the Supreme Court was due to deliver its verdict on a corruption case against her in a few days.
OPS raised the banner of revolt against Ms. Sasikala on February 7 and alleged that he was forced to resign and stated that he was willing to continue as Chief Minister if the party and the people so desired.
The next week saw both sides engaged in a bitter power tussle, trying to garner support from the party's MLAs. The OPS camp attracted the support of 11 MPs and several AIADMK veterans, including a State Minister, but could manage to get backing from only 10 MLAs. Ms. Sasikala said she enjoyed the support of more than 120 MLAs, all of whom stayed at a resort near the city for the next several days.
As it turned out, the apex court convicted Ms. Sasikala in the 20-year-old case, which basically involved Mr. Jayalalithaa, and restored the order of a trial court in Bengaluru sentencing her to four years in prison. That ended her Chief Ministerial ambitions and she had to travel to Bengaluru to surrender before the trial court there to serve out the remainder of her prison term.
Hours before leaving for Bengaluru, she inducted her nephews into the party and made Dinakaran her deputy, in a clear bid to ensure that her family retained control over the organisation.
She also expelled OPS and 19 others, including senior leaders like Mr. C. Ponnaian and K. Pandiarajan, a Minister in the Panneerselvam Cabinet and a sitting MLA, for supporting him.