Hours after the Supreme Court verdict against Sasikala in the Disproportionate Assets case, the debate over ''Who has the numbers?” still continues.
Justice has prevailed – this is the general sentiment that came through on social media and even TV news reports as soon as the Supreme Court verdict was read out. Hours after the Supreme Court verdict against Sasikala in the Disproportionate Assets case, the debate over ”Who has the numbers?” still continues. Also, most discussions are now pointing towards the Governor, raising questions such as “Is the Governor dilly-dallying?”
N Ram, senior journalist, told India Today TV channel, “People support Panneerselvam but Sasikala still seems to be ordering MLAs around, anointing successors and it is quite disgraceful this is happening. There is no justification for a composite floor test as Paneerselvam has no numbers backing him.”
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Ruling out any scope for President’s Rule in Tamil Nadu, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi rubbished reports that the Governor is taking too much time in taking action. He stated, “Typically, Governors take at least a week’s time after the verdict to come to a decision. By the end of this week, the Governor is likely to come out with a decision. There is no constitutional embargo on the Governor to invite a party to form the government within hours after the verdict.”
Meanwhile, Sasikala has issued a late night statement, “No one can separate me from the AIADMK. Party comes first.”
Another significant development is that Deepa Jayakumar, Jayalalithaa’s niece, has joined politics officially and she made this announcement in the presnce of O Panneerselvam at the Jaya Memorial today. It is clear that many political sub-plots are emerging like a tapestry to this grand political narrative in Tamil Nadu.
So, what happens next and what are the legal options one can consider at this point in time?
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in an interview to Times Now stated, “Let us leave it to the Governor to take a call but it is a fluid situation in Tamil Nadu. Assuming that a proxy has popped up in the party, is the Governor wrong in scrutinizing even that? The Governor should be left to take a call based on his wisdom. Taking all the visuals how people are being prevented and some MLAs are reportedly jumping on the other side, should the Governor not consider the ground situation? The Governor and President are figure- heads but they act on their own discretion to objectively consider the implications of an evolving scenario. In politics, you go by constitutional propriety. However, I don’t recall any precedent for this.”
This view regarding a precedent has evoked mixed reactions. Not everyone agrees with this view.
Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee strongly believes that there is clear precedent. He stated to India Today TV channel, “The government must call a special session. There should be a composite floor test with a secret ballot. We have a precedent to support this and it is an extraordinary situation in Tamil Nadu.”
However, Sanjay Hegde, a constitutional expert, told India Today TV, “We are living in a parliamentary democracy. You cannot have a secret ballot – there are anti-defection laws in place. Get a court order for that. This is a country where Charan Singh was sworn in as Prime Minister and when he could not prove a majority, he had to resign.”
Further, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also said, “I am not speaking as a Law Minister but as a constitutional law expert. When the Prime Minister has to tender his resignation, he has to go, meet the President and submit the resignation by hand, following which the President accepts the same. The same principle applies for the Chief Minister who tenders a resignation. In this case, it is important to see whether O Panneerselvam did the same. Did he personally meet the Governor and tender the resignation directly? Reports suggest that he did not and subsequently, he has stated clearly that the resignation was submitted under duress and not free will.”
Now we can’t help reading between the lines – after all, this is the Law Minister who is sharing his insights as a constitutional law expert! This could also mean that OPS has another option – he can prove legally that he has not tendered the resignation directly to the Governor and therefore, the resignation that was tendered indirectly and under duress is null and void. Simply put, OPS must be able to prove that his resignation has no legal and constitutional validity.
Will OPS be able to walk through this agnipareeksha unscathed by the bitter political rivalry in his party? The numbers are still not with O Panneerselvam, but the people of Tamil Nadu are standing by him. Maybe something may turn the tide in his favour – after all, in politics, anything can happen at the last minute.