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AIADMK crisis: Will Tamil Nadu governor call for a trust vote?

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-08-2017 Dharani Thangavelu

Chennai: After 19 legislators from the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) withdrew support to chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) and as the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) becomes more vocal, the ball is once again in Tamil Nadu governor C. Vidyasagar Rao’s court.

A day after EPS and former chief minister O. Panneerselvam (OPS) buried the hatchet and formally united rival factions of the AIADMK, 19 members of the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly (MLAs) dissented on Tuesday, alleging abuse of power, corruption and favouritism by the chief minister. They met governor Rao to withdraw their support.

With the end of one round of factionalism giving way to another revolt, the camp that supports the party’s sidelined deputy general secretary T.T.V Dhinakaran and general secretary V.K. Sasikala who is in a Bengaluru jail after being convicted in a disproportionate assets case, has pushed the EPS government to the brink of a collapse.

In February, when Panneerselvam rebelled against Sasikala as she attempted to become chief minister, more than 10 MLAs supported him.

When Sasikala was jailed, EPS was installed as chief minister and had to face a floor test in the legislative assembly which he won with the support of 122 MLAs.

The question now is whether the governor will convene the assembly and call for a floor test this time.

The ruling party requires a simple majority of 117 MLAs in the 234-member assembly. The DMK, Congress and Indian Union Muslim League together have 98 MLAs. Late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s seat lies vacant so the strength of the assembly stands at 233.

Although the Dhinakaran camp claims that it has the support of more than 30 MLAs, the 19 who withdrew support from EPS on Tuesday will be enough to topple the government.

Tamil Nadu, which witnessed some ‘resort politics’ earlier this year when over a 100 MLAs were sent to a resort on the outskirts of Chennai to stop them from switching sides, is back in a similar situation.

Hours after opposition leader and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) working president M.K. Stalin wrote to the governor on Tuesday, urging him to direct EPS to prove his majority in the assembly “immediately” in order to avoid the “evil practice of horse trading which occurred when the incumbent chief minister proved his majority on an earlier confidence motion (in February)”, the legislators who withdrew support were packed off to a resort in neighbouring Puducherry.

The opposition DMK, which has so far been waiting for the government to collapse on its own, senses an opportunity.

Stalin also said in his letter to the governor that “any inordinate delay in asking the chief minister to prove his majority in the instant case will pave the way for continuance of an unconstitutional government and it will destabilise the democratic norms and precedents established in demonstrating the confidence of the house.”

Tamil Nadu which has been witnessing political turmoil since the hospitalisation of Jayalalithaa in September last year and an even bigger chaos within the ruling AIADMK after her demise in December, awaits the decision of the governor, who has been shuttling between Chennai and Mumbai as he is the governor of both Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu has not had a full-time governor in the last one year.

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