Indian politics: 18 rebel MLAs lose membership as Tamil Nadu assembly speaker sacks them!

A file photo of AIADMK (Amma) deputy general secretary T.T.V. Dhinakaran along with party MLAs. Photo: PTI

Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal

As a sort of climax, the ruling AIADMK has finally has shown the door to the problematic rebel MLAs who are being used as a useful tool of threatening the government by TTV Dinakaran on behalf of jailed Sasikala.

In a massive setback for ousted All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam member T T V Dinakaran, the Tamil Nadu Assembly speaker P Dhanapal on September 18 disqualified 18 MLAs backing him. The Dhinakaran camp finally went to the Madras High Court in desperation after one rebel lawmaker switched sides.
The decision was immediately challenged by the Dinakaran camp. P Vetrivel, a senior MLA supporting Dinakaran and leading the rebels, 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.
Following the revolt of the MLAs against the Edappadi Palaniswami government, Dinakaran initially put them up at a resort in Puducherry. They later shifted to a resort in Coorg in Karnataka and are since staying there. One of them shifted camps to support Palaniswami later.
Tamil Nadu Ministers Jayakumar and RB Udaykumar are in Delhi to meet Election Commission officials to submit a copy of AIADMK general council meeting. The ruling party is eager to regain the party symbol Two-leaves.
Earlier, in a dramatic move, the O Paneerselvam and Edappadi K Palaniswami factions had come together to remake AIADMK as reunited party and recently removed V K Sasikala as the party’s interim general secretary in its general council meeting held last week. It also resolved that all the announcements made by her dear nephew TTV Dhinakaran will not be binding on the party. The punitive measures by the ruling party came as a shock to Sasikala-Dinakaran duo.

The rebel lawmakers, who have been enjoying 5-Star ‘Hideout’ comforts, have been sequestered in different resorts for days by Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran, who was also removed recently as the party’s number 2.

As eighteen Tamil Nadu legislators loyal to sidelined AIADMK leaders VK Sasikala and TTV Dhinakaran were disqualified by the Speaker of the Assembly, the disqualified MLAs of Dhinakaran camp have filed a case in the Madras High Court.

The rebel lawmakers who do not care for the people who have elected them to the state assembly and enjoy life in top posh hotels with swimming pool and play courts, among other high-class facilities have been sequestered in different resorts for days by Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran, who was also removed recently as the party’s number 2. Following the revolt of 19 party MLAs against Palaniswami, they were all initially put up at a Puducherry. They later shifted to a resort in Coorg in Karnataka and are since then staying there. Currently, they are at the luxury Paddington Resort and Spa in Karnataka’s Coorg. Dhinakaran thought putting the MLAs in posh hotels would force the AIADMK government to give a ministerial berth to one of his associates. One of them shifted camps to support Palaniswami later.

The move is a massive setback for Dhinakaran, who arranged for lawmakers backing him to stay in a Kodagu resort after Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam merged their party factions.

The acting troublemaker in chief, Dhinakaran, as well as the opposition DMK, had told the court that the Palaniswami government had been reduced to a minority after 19 ‘lawmakers’ submitted letters withdrawing their support. In the 234-member state assembly, the Chief Minister has the assured support of 112 lawmakers. In case of a trust vote, the EPS government could have been three short of a majority.

Earlier, the MLAs disqualified had told Governor Vidyasagar Rao they had no confidence in Palaniswami and accused him of being corrupt. Their loyalty to Dhinakaran put the Tamil Nadu government in a precarious situation, for it needs more support in the Assembly. The move indemnifies Chief Minister E Palaniswami, should he face a trust vote. It would need 117 MLAs to reach the halfway mark in the legislature, where the RK Nagar seat has been vacant since J Jayalalithaa’s death. Right now, it falls well short of that number.
Meanwhile, the DMK could use this opportunity to precipitate legislative elections. The DMK’s MK Stalin and Dinakaran’s group had met Governor C Vidyasagar Rao over the last few weeks urging him to ask EPS to prove his majority. If a certain number of its MLAs resign, the Assembly will have to be dissolved, and fresh polls conducted within six months. If that happens, MK Stalin’s party will fancy its chances – given that after Jayalalithaa’s death, the AIADMK has seen months of melodramatic infighting, its former general secretary Sasikala jailed in a disproportionate assets case, and Dhinakaran jailed in a case of alleged bribery.

Action against them under the anti-defection law comes just before a Madras High Court decision on whether the Chief Minister should face a trust vote. With the disqualification of 18 legislators, the half-way mark has come down to 107, which means the Chief Minister will breeze through a test of strength.

The state government’s top lawyer had earlier declined to give any assurance on the proceedings before the Speaker. “I can’t say there would be no action against the MLAs,” he told the court last week.

Before taking action, assembly Speaker P Dhanapal had asked the rebels to rebut charges of anti-party activity by Friday. The legislators had been demanding the removal of EPS since he joined hands with the faction led by O Panneerselvam or OPS, a former Chief Minister who had revolted against Ms. Sasikala when she took control of the party and tried to become Chief Minister after J Jayalalithaa’s death.

The Palaniswami government claims support of 114 MLAs, who had attended a general council meeting that ousted jailed leader Sasikala and Dinakaran from party posts.
The Tamil Nadu assembly speaker’s action came just two days before a high court deadline for a floor test by chief minister Edapaddi Palaniswami. The decision by assembly speaker P Dhanapal brings down the magic number in the 234-member House to 110 as against 117 before the disqualification, in the case of a floor test.

The opposition DMK, hoping to fish in the troubled AIADMK waters, also challenged the speaker’s decision. A Saravanan said it was precise to prevent this that “we had moved the high court asking for a direction on holding floor test. “We had reports that the government would disqualify the MLAs at 10 am and hold the floor test at 10.30am so that no time would be given for challenging this,” he added. MK Stalin, the leader of opposition in the Tamil Nadu assembly, criticised the speaker for disqualifying the MLAs, saying he has done this deliberately to reduce the majority of the house.

However, the Madras high court has stayed any floor test till Wednesday, when it takes up a plea filed by the DMK and Dinakaran camp MLA P Vetrivel.
The MLAs were disqualified under the 1986 Tamil Nadu Assembly Members party defection law. The MLAs were disqualified under the 1986 Tamil Nadu Assembly Members party defection law. The disqualification of the 18 MLAs means it should be slightly easier for the E Palaniswami-led AIADMK government to pass the high court-ordered floor test on September 20.
Meanwhile, having felt the earth moving fast under his feet, Dinakaran seems to have stopped removing the party functionaries from their posts as such actions have become ridiculous. He has been doing that exercise as the Dy. Secretary of the party which was not recognized in order only to show the importance of Sasikala’s power in Tamil Nadu politics.
Unfortunately, basic ethics is missing in Indian politics which is based on money power and rampant corruption, permitted by the state.

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Dr. Abdul Ruff is a columnist contributing articles to many newspapers and journals on world politics. He is an expert on Mideast affairs, as well as a chronicler of foreign occupations and freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.). Dr. Ruff is a specialist on state terrorism, the Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA), commentator on world affairs and sport fixings, and a former university teacher. He is the author of various eBooks/books and editor for INTERNATIONAL OPINION and editor for FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES; Palestine Times.