Palaniswami set to seek vote of confidence amid uncertainty
Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami is all set to seek a vote of confidence on Saturday in the state assembly — that is likely to see some tight-rope walk, with the rival AIADMK faction led by O. Panneerselvam joined by opposition parties to vote against the government.
The southern state, that has not seen a day without hectic political developments since the past 10 days, is poised for another day of intense political activity with the scene shifting to the state assembly.
Palaniswami, 63, a senior leader in the ruling AIADMK of the V.K. Sasikala camp, was sworn in on Thursday. He needs the support of 117 legislators to continue in the post.
The AIADMK party commands the support of 124 legislators, including the Speaker, while the breakaway group led by former Chief Minister Panneerselvam has 11 legislators.
The other opposition includes DMK with 89 members, Congress – eight, Indian Union Muslim League with one, and one seat is vacant. The DMK has said it will vote against the government, while the Congress has said it will wait for the party high command’s directive. However, the Congress has indicated it will vote against the Palaniswami government.
The DMK (minus its President M. Karunanidhi who is unwell has 88 legislators to vote), Along with the Congress and Indian Union of Muslim League, the opposition group comes to 97.
The Panneerselvam camp has the support of 11, taking the tally against Palaniswami to 108. If there is some cross-voting to the tune of 10 legislators from Sasikala’s camp then it could be the end for Palaniswami.
The assembly has a total strength of 234 of which one seat is vacant.
On Friday, the Chief Minister’s support base suffered erosion by one legislator.
AIADMK legislator representing Mylapore constituency and former Director General of Police (DGP) R. Nataraj said he would vote against Palaniswami.
Following Nataraj’s about-turn at the last minute, Palaniswami’s support base is down to 124 legislators.
Meanwhile, a week after he was sacked from the AIADMK, former party Presidium Chairman E. Madhusudanan on Friday in turn “dismissed” General Secretary V.K. Sasikala, Chief Minister Palaniswami Deputy General Secretary T.T.V. Dinakaran, Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha M.Thambidurai, A. Navaneethakrishnan, Thangamani, N.Dalavai Sundaram, Valarmathi, R.B. Udhayakumar, C.Ve. Shanmugam and S. Venkatesh — from the party’s primary membership.
The vote of confidence is being held following a split in the AIADMK party after Panneerselvam revolted against General Secretary V.K. Sasikala charging her of forcing him to quit.
Sasikala is now in a jail in Bengaluru after being convicted in a corruption case.
On Thursday, Palaniswami was sworn in as Chief Minister and 30 ministers also took oath.
Majority of legislators belonging to Sasikala camp are housed in a beach resort around 90 km from here and Panneerselvam hopes to get some votes from those legislators.
After holding hectic discussions at Panneerselvam’s residence on Friday morning, a small group of AIADMK leaders met the Speaker in the Secretariat and demanded secret ballot.
Speaking to reporters, S. Semmalai, part of the Panneerselvam camp, said they have urged the Speaker for a secret ballot to decide on the motion of confidence.
“Panneerselvam and the legislators supporting him should openly vote against the motion of confidence and to build on the credibility in the people’s mind space,” K.C. Palaniswamy, a former MP of AIADMK, told IANS on Friday.
On the other hand if secret ballot on the confidence motion is allowed and a whip is issued the issue before the Panneerselavam camp is whether to abide by the whip or disobey.
“In case if they disobey, whether they could be disqualified as legislators under the anti-defection law is a point to ponder,” an AIADMK leader said.
“The party whip has to take orders from the leader before issuing any whip on the way in which legislators are to vote. In AIADMK’s case the appointment of Sasikala as General Secretary is under dispute and also the appointments made by her. So that question would have to be decided before any legislator can be disqualified,” Palaniswamy said.
Sasikala had recently dismissed Panneerselvam and former Minister K. Pandiarajan from the primary membership of the party and both are outside the purview of the anti-defection law.
DMK General Secretary K. Anbazhagan has predicted the government will not survive.
On Thursday, MPs belonging to the Panneerselvam camp had met Election Commission officials and petitioned to disqualify Sasikala’s appointment as General Secretary.