Upset over the merger of rival factions of AIADMK, MLAs loyal to sidelined party supremo VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran on August 22 told Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao they have lost confidence in Chief Minister EK Palaniswami, prompting the opposition DMK to demand a trust vote.
“We are going to initiate efforts to bring in a new chief minister with the help of our supporting MLAs,” Dhinakaran’s supporter and Andipatti MLA Thanga Tamil Selvan said. He was speaking to reporters following a meeting with the governor, a day after the merger of the two rival factions led by Palaniswami and rebel leader O Panneerselvam, a former chief minister.
The MLAs backing Dhinakaran later proceeded to a resort in the neighbouring Puducherry. At the Puducherry resort, Thanga Tamil Selvan said, “We have come here to take rest.” He declined to disclose how long the legislators will be staying there.
There was no clarity on the number of MLAs staying at the resort. The Dhinakaran camp had yesterday claimed support of 25 AIADMK MLAs. Raj Bhavan sources confirmed that Rao met Dhinakaran loyalists but declined to divulge what transpired there, including how many MLAs were present during the meeting.
“We have informed the governor that we don’t have confidence in the chief minister,” Selvan said after the meeting.
In the 234-member Assembly, the AIADMK has 134 MLAs, excluding the Speaker. Late chief minister Jayalalithaa’s RK Nagar constituency is still vacant.
The DMK has 89 seats followed by its allies Congress eight and IUML one. Seeking to fish in troubled waters, principal opposition party DMK shot off a letter to the governor demanding that the Assembly be convened and Palaniswami directed to prove his majority.
DMK working president and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly M K Stalin, in a letter to Rao, said that “consequent upon identical letters given by 22 MLAs to the governor expressing lack of confidence in the chief minister, an unprecedented constitutional crisis has erupted.”
He cited a similar occasion in Karnataka when the governor of that state had directed the then chief minister B S Yeddyurappa to prove his majority in the House.
Any inordinate delay in asking the chief minister to prove majority would pave the way for continuance of an “unconstitutional” government, Stalin said in the letter.
“As the leader of Opposition, I therefore request the governor to direct Palaniswami to prove his majority in the House immediately,” Stalin said. DMK will take a “good decision” on the trust vote at an appropriate time, he later told reporters. Selvan said the purpose of meeting the governor was to force Palaniswami to seek a trust vote.
“Our intention is that there should be a trust vote so that there is new chief minister,” he said.
MLAs supporting Dhinakaran have been on a warpath with Palaniswami, questioning the merger of the Amma faction-led by him and Panneerselvam’s AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) yesterday.
“The 122 (AIADMK) MLAs had made Palaniswami Chief Minister because Chinnamma (Sasikala) asked us to do so. Panneerselvam had voted against the government (in the February 18 trust vote),” Selvan said. He also expressed anguish over efforts to remove Sasikala from the party, saying it was she who ensured the continuation of the AIADMK government following Panneerselvam’s revolt in February last.
Palaniswami went into a huddle with Panneerselvam, who was sworn in as deputy chief minister yesterday, and some senior ministers, after Dhinakaran’s loyalists met Rao and DMK demanded a trust vote.
In a related development, Dhinakaran announced sacking of senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP R Vaithilingam from the the party.
The move came a day after Vaithilingam, a Palaniswami loyalist, said steps would be taken for the removal of Sasikala from the AIADMK.
Meanwhile, chief minister Palaniswami spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by phone and thanked him for extending support to his government, an official release said.
Modi had extended “all possible support” to the Palaniswami government yesterday following the merger of the two AIADMK factions.
Meanwhile, Sasikala’s brother V Divakaran, batted for an AIADMK government in the state that is neither led by Palaniswami nor Panneerselvam, and suggested the name of Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal, a move seen as an attempt to drive a wedge between senior leaders of the ruling establishment.
He told reporters at Mannargudi that the Palaniswami government has been reduced to a “minority” and lost the moral right to be in office.
Meanwhile, P Purushothaman heading the Palaniswami-led group in Puducherry, and a former legislator Om Sakthi Segar, leading the faction owing allegiance to Panneerselvam, announced that the two groups in the Union Territory had merged following the merger of the two factions in Tamil Nadu. AIADMK has four legislators in Puducherry Assembly and have identified themselves as AIADMK (Amma).