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All eyes on Madras high court today as political crisis in Tamil Nadu intensifies

LiveMint logoLiveMint 19-09-2017 Dharani Thangavelu

Chennai: All eyes will be on the Madras high court on Wednesday when it takes up the disqualification of rebel All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) MLAs as well as the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) plea on convening the assembly to hold a floor test of chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami’s government.

Tamil Nadu speaker P. Dhanapal on Monday disqualified 18 legislators from the ruling party’s faction led by T.T.V. Dhinakaran citing anti-defection rules under Schedule 10 of the Constitution and, within hours, declared their assembly constituencies vacant as per provisions under Article 190 of the Constitution.

Dhinakaran is the nephew of ousted AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala, currently serving a four-year jail term in a disproportionate wealth case.

Last week, while hearing the DMK’s plea, the high court had stayed any move to hold a trust vote until 20 September. As attempts were made by the ruling party to disqualify dissident legislators, the DMK argued that the government was creating the conditions to turn Palaniswami’s minority government into a majority one.

After the disqualification, the ruling party’s strength stands reduced to 116. The DMK has 89 members and its ally, Congress, has eight MLAs. Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has one member. In the 234-member state assembly, the R.K. Nagar seat represented by former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa remains vacant.

With the action now shifting to the high court, analysts said that there is clearly a constitutional crisis which can get more complicated.

“If the court stays the speaker’s order, it will clearly make room for prolonged appeals,” said N. Sathiya Moorthy, director of the Chennai chapter of the think tank, Observer Research Foundation.

He added that it could lead to the assembly being put in suspended animation or end in its dissolution. The opposition parties in the state have also been citing the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court in the S.R. Bommai case of 1994 for convening the assembly for a floor test.

A senior member from the ruling faction of the AIADMK, on condition of anonymity, said that “our (Palaniswami) camp’s attempt is to drag the process as long as possible.”

Nineteen MLAs backing Dhinakaran met governor C. Vidyasagar Rao on 22 August and withdrew support to the Palaniswami government, prompting government whip S. Rajendran to call for them to be disqualified. Then, earlier this month, S.T.K. Jakkaiyan, one of the 19, switched back to the chief minister’s camp.

While there was speculation that DMK MLAs would resign en masse to force elections, the party in a meeting held on Tuesday evening merely passed resolutions condemning the governor, the speaker and the chief minister.

The leader of the opposition and DMK’s working president M.K. Stalin said that his party was always ready to face an elections, and added that it will decide on the “next course of action based on tomorrow’s (Wednesday’s) order by the high court”.

Meanwhile, Dhinakaran in an address in Trichy, raised doubts over the actions of the governor and urged him to order a floor test immediately. “It’s time for the Palaniswami government to go home,” Dhinakaran added.

On Monday, Dhinakaran had claimed that the governor was aware that Palaniswami and deputy chief minister O. Panneerselvam did not have the required numbers and had delayed a floor test.

Last week, the Madurai bench of the Madras high court directed the Election Commission to decide by 31 October which faction of the AIADMK would get the party’s disputed ‘two leaves’ symbol.

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