Waving currency notes, opposition DMK MLAs led by M K Stalin today staged noisy protests before being evicted en masse from the Tamil Nadu Assembly, after their demand for a debate on alleged horse-trading involving ruling AIADMK legislators was disallowed. Stalin, who is the Leader of Opposition, demanded the dismissal of the AIADMK government over the issue of the alleged payoffs, which rocked the Assembly on the opening day of its Budget session. After being removed from the House, Stalin and fellow MLAs resorted to a road blockade outside the state Secretariat, leading to their brief detention at a marriage hall by police.
DMK cadres were also arrested in different parts of the state for staging demonstrations against the eviction of Stalin and others. Trouble for the AIADMK, which is already in the grip of an intense factional feud, broke out after SS Saravanan, a party MLA belonging to the dissident faction led by O Panneerselvam, purportedly made some claims in a TV ‘sting’ operation about alleged pay-offs to ruling party MLAs ahead of the February 18 trust vote that was won by incumbent Chief Minister K Palaniswami. Saravanan yesterday said it was him in the video footage aired by the TV channel, but the voice was not his.
In the Assembly, Speaker P Dhanapal disallowed a discussion as sought by Stalin, saying the matter, based on a private TV channel’s ‘sting’ operation, was sub-judice. He later ordered the eviction of all DMK members as his repeated pleas for order and cooperation for the smooth conduct of proceedings fell on deaf ears. DMK has a strength of 88 MLAs in the 234-member Assembly. Earlier, in a stormy start to the three-week long Assembly session, the DMK sought to raise the issue of alleged horse-trading. The DMK MLAs resorted to high decibel sloganeering even as some of them were seen waving wads of currency notes, newspapers, and held papers with something written on it.
Dhanapal said there was a precedent for not allowing sub-judice matters to be discussed in the House. He recalled that when the DMK was in power in January 2011, then Speaker R Avudaiyappan had cited the grounds of ‘sub-judice’ to deny permission to an AIADMK member to raise the issue of ‘Nira Radia’ tapes in which DMK MP Kanimozhi’s name had figured. The Speaker said that Avudaiyappan had also sought “evidence” on the Radia tapes while not allowing a discussion, and asked the DMK also to produce proof on the matter. Asserting that the matter was sub-judice, the Speaker said he will not allow the discussion at any cost.
“I have repeatedly pleaded with you for your cooperation for the smooth running of the House for nearly 45 minutes. But you seemed to have decided deliberately to disrupt proceedings which I cannot allow,” he said before ordering their eviction. He then read out the names of all DMK MLAs present before summoning the marshals to evict them.
Immediately a security cordon was thrown around the Speaker before the DMK MLAs, including Stalin, were escorted out by the marshals.The DMK’s allies–the Congress and IUML–staged a walkout, expressing solidarity with the main opposition party.
Stalin made it clear he would not relent on the issue, asserting he would raise it in the Assembly tomorrow as well. “We will be going to Assembly tomorrow and raise the issue again. We will rightfully express our voice seeking a proper explanation from the government,” he told reporters after being released by the police. To a question on the Speaker’s reference to the Radia tapes, Stalin said that matter was in court. “Let punishment (verdict) come (in the 2G case). But (late Chief Minister J) Jayalalithaa, Sasikala, Ilavarasi and Sudhakaran being sentenced to jail term and asked to pay fine (in a wealth case) has happened only in the history of the AIADMK,” he said.
“We seek the dismissal of this government. We wanted to seek a CBI enquiry into the case. I had planned to raise these issues after the Question Hour. But I was not allowed to speak,” he said. “We tried our best till the last minute but they did not heed our demand and evicted us. It is highly condemnable. Democracy has been buried,” he said.
Earlier, soon after the Question Hour ended, Stalin wanted to raise some issues and was initially allowed by the speaker.However, when he started to speak about the video footage aired by the TV channel, the speaker denied permission.
Soon, all DMK MLAs were on their feet and they insisted on a discussion on the matter even as the leader of the opposition and his deputy, Duraimurugan, entered into an argument with the speaker. At one stage, Duraimurugan made some comments which infuriated the Speaker and ruling benches with even Chief Minister K Palaniswami asking the veteran opposition leader to refrain from making such remarks, considering he himself is a former minister. Speaker Dhanapal ordered the remarks to be expunged.
He later asked Commercial Taxes Minister K C Veeramani to table the Tamil Nadu Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017 and two of his colleagues too moved their demands for grant for their departments amidst sloganeering by the DMK members. Dhanapal repeatedly pleaded with the opposition for cooperation saying that the original issue of trust vote was not only sub-judice but that the DMK had also yesterday made a mention in the court about the footage. He also said the concerned MLA Saravanan had clarified on the matter.