Eighteen MLAs loyal to AIADMK’s Sasikala faction leader and her nephew TTV Dinakaran have been disqualified by Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal on Monday. This came a day after Dinakaran raised serious charges against Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami alleging direct links of him and his with mining baron Sekhar Reddy.
Announcing this, Assembly Secretary K. Boopathy said in an official release that since the Speaker has disqualified them under Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on Ground of Defection) Rules, 1986, the 18 AIADMK MLAs have lost their MLA posts. The Secretary said, “The Speaker has taken action under schedule 10 of the constitution and therefore the following MLAs are disqualified and therefore they lose their MLA post.”
The AIADMK has 134 MLAs in the 235-member Tamil Nadu Assembly, while the main Opposition party DMK has 89 MLAs. But with 18 legislators being disqualified, the AIADMK’s strength has gone down to just 116.
There were fears that if a floor test was ordered and the Dhinakaran camp decided to support DMK, it may have been enough to topple the E Palaniswamy government.
The Madras High Court had earlier held that a floor test cannot be held before 20 September, following petitions filed by Stalin and Dhinakaran loyalist, MLA P Vetrivel.
P Vetrivel, a senior MLA supporting Dinakaran, said the order was patently illegal and “we will challenge this in the court.”
“The speaker has done this disqualification so that the government wins the floor test. The decision is unfair as well as illegal as 19 MLAs had given in writing to the governor that they had lost faith in the EPS as the chief minister,” he added.
Trouble in Tamil Nadu
The AIADMK has been embroiled in a political drama of shifting loyalties after the death of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa in 2016. First, O Pannerselvam (now an ally of Palaniswamy and part of the government) was appointed the chief minister of the state, then he was expelled from the party following differences with then newly-appointed party general secretary VK Sasikala.
OPS had then formed a rebel group with AIADMK split into a Sasikala-led faction (Chinamma camp) with support from a majority of the MLAs and OPS-led group (Amma camp) formed mainly of party MPs.
However, after Sasikala was convicted in a disproportionate assets case, the Sasikala-led faction of AIADMK had appointed E Palaniswamy as the CM with Dhinakaran as in-charge of the party affairs. Over the course of next few months, Tamil Nadu witnessed series of dramas with the Sasikala-led faction trying to retain control of the party while OPS camp trying to win the support of their former colleagues and Jayalalithaa loyalists and most importantly Palaniswamy.
Soon differences began to emerge between Dhinakaran-loyalists and Palaniswamy loyalists within the ruling AIADMK with Dhinakaran even attempting to bribe Election Commission officials to gain control of party symbol. The fallout of this resulted in Pannerselvam and Palaniswamy joining hands to and merging the two groups of the party to form a unified AIADMK.
However, the union didn’t go well with Dhinakaran or his loyal MLAs, who now form the rebel group of AIADMK. Both the groups are now claiming legal control over AIADMK, and the ongoing tussle is a part of each trying to exert control over the party.