The Madras High Court ruling means that the matter will remain sub-judice and chances of MLAs getting reinstated can't be written off.
The Madras High Court’s split verdict on petitions challenging the disqualification of 18 MLAs has brought in a huge relief for the ruling government. However, the relief is temporary. The verdict means that a status quo will be maintained in the corridors of power in Tamil Nadu. A division bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar delivered the split verdict on whether the 18 MLAs deserved to be disqualified under the anti-defection law by Speaker P Dhanapal on September 18 last year. The court ruled that the senior-most judge after the chief justice would now hand-pick a judge, who will hear the matter afresh.
The Madras High Court ruling means that the matter will remain sub-judice and chances of MLAs getting reinstated can’t be written off. In case the speaker’s decision is quashed by the court, it would virtually lead to another round of turmoil in Tamil Nadu politics.
In that scenario, the government and the joint Opposition would stand neck-and-neck in terms of numbers. The government, excluding the Speaker, would stand at 116 MLAs, while the joint Opposition would surpass the number by one MLA with the collective number coming up to 117 MLAs. MLAs in Tamil Nadu have been rebellious and changed sides more than once in the recent past. First such moment came when more than 20 lawmakers sided with O Panneerselvam, revolting against chief minister E Palaniswami. Later, most of these MLAs joined hands after a settlement between their leaders. However, 18 of them decided to side with TTV Dhinakaran. Hence, it would be no surprise if they once again decide to switch sides.
Year 2017 brought big twists and turns in Tamil Nadu politics. The year saw the demise of then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, taking over of the party by Sasikala, E Palaniswami’s take over as the chief minister, the rise of new political outfits and a few other developments. Palaniswami later rebelled with Sasikala and joined hands with O Panneerselvam and together the two politicians enjoyed the support of 117 MLAs.
However, out of the total 117 MLAs, 18 AIADMK MLAs sided with Sasikala’s nephew, TTV Dhinakaran. This created a major scare for Palaniswami government as it lost the majority in the assembly. The 18 MLAs went to meet the governor seeking disqualification of CM Palaniswami and were subsequently disqualified by the Assembly speaker on the charges of rebellion with their party, bringing the majority down to 107.
Later, TTV Dhinakaran also won the prestigious RK Nagar bypoll, necessitated after the death of Jayalalithaa, bringing his flock’s tally up by one seat. In the current scenario, the AIADMK has 116 MLAs in the assembly, while the required strength is 107. However, the required number will go up to 117 again if the MLAs are reinstated by the High Court.