Eighteen AIADMK MLAs owing allegiance to rebel leader TTV Dhinakaran were on Monday disqualified by Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal, giving the ruling side an edge in a show of strength which now seems imminent.
Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, who met President Ram Nath Kovind and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the national capital, is reaching Chennai on Tuesday morning and may issue orders summoning a special session of the Assembly for the chief minister to prove his majority.
Assembly Secretary K Boopathy said that after the disqualification under the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on Ground of Defection) Rules 1986, the 18 MLAs have lost their membership of the House.
He also wrote to the Election Commission notifying the vacancies in the House after the disqualification.
With this, the effective strength of the 234-member House (where late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's seat remains vacant) has come down to 215. And against a half-way mark of 109, Chief Minister E Palaniswamy claims to enjoy the support of 114 MLAs.
The DMK and its allies have 98 members.
The disqualified MLAs are: Thanga Tamilselvan, R Murugan, Cho Mariappan Kennedy, K Kathikamu, C Jayanthi Padmanabhan, P Palaniappan, V Senthil Balaji, S Muthiah, P Vetrivel, NG Parthiban, M Kothandapani, TA Elumalai, M Rengasamy, R Thangadurai, R Balasubramani, 'Ethirkottai' SG Subramanian, R Sundararaj and K Uma Maheshwari.
Though notices were issued by the Speaker initially to 19 AIADMK MLAs who took sides with Dinakaran, one of them, STK Jakkaiyan, shifted his loyalty to the chief minister.
The 18 MLAs have neither quit their party membership nor joined another political party, grounds on which an MLA can be disqualified.
A furious Dhinakaran told reporters that the Speaker's decision was a "shortcut" to gaining majority but said the matter will be taken to the Madras High Court on Tuesday.
"We are sure we will get a stay. Justice will triumph. Patience will win. Betrayal will never win," he said.
He said the fact that the government did not have majority was well known from last month and blamed the Governor for the current unpleasant situation. "After unseating the government, we will get a majority in the elections," Dhinakaran said.
He claimed he had the open support of 21 MLAs and 10 to 12 MLAs were "silently" with them.
Dhinakaran on Monday claimed that legislators supporting him would not have been disqualified had Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao acted on time on their plea against Palaniswamy.
"Because the governor made unnecessary delay despite knowing that Palaniswamy did not have the 117 magic number, such a murder of democracy has happened," he alleged.
Since 22 August, when 19 of the MLAs revolted against Palaniswamy and sought his removal with Rao, the governor was aware that the chief minister lacked the "magic number of 117", the simple majority in the 234-member House, he claimed.
One MLA later switched over to the Palaniswamy camp.
The combative Dhinakaran, engaged in a tussle for power with Palaniswamy, claimed initially MLAs of his camp had met the governor at his insistence and that later he himself had knocked on the doors of Rao.
"Such mishaps (Monday's disqualification of 18 MLAs) are happening due to the governor failing to maintain the dignity of his position," he told reporters.
Dhinakaran described as "murder of democracy" Speaker P Dhanapal disqualifying the 18 legislators owing allegiance to him and said he did not expect such an action from the former.
The Dhinakaran faction, besides Opposition including DMK, have been since urging Rao to direct a floor test of the Palaniswamy government.
People of all walks of life were opposing the disqualification of 18 MLAs, which amounted to "stifling democracy", he said.
He also said the BJP-led central government "should not close its eyes to this murder".
He claimed that some other AIADMK MLAs would also vote against the government during a possible floor test as they were against "betrayal".
"It is certain that Palaniswamy is going home. It will be known soon when it will happen," Dhinakaran added.
He said Palaniswamy had betrayed 'removed' party chief VK Sasikala, as it was she who had identified him as O Panneerselvam's successor, following the now deputy chief minister's rebellion in February.
He said Sasikala accepted the post of party general secretary only after "much pleading" by AIADMK leaders who conveyed to her the decision taken at its General Council last December following the death of her predecessor and then chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
Dhinakaran said a situation to that of 1987 had come up, referring to the rebellion in the AIADMK following the death of party founder MG Ramachandran.
The party had split into two factions, each headed by Jayalalithaa and Ramachandran's widow Janaki.
Jayalalithaa, however, later managed to unify the different factions.
Dhinakaran also exuded the confidence of "attaining success" in "sending Palaniswamy home".
His loyalist MLA Thanga Tamilselvan said in Kodagu in Karnataka, where the MLAs are staying in a resort, that they were 100 per cent confident that they would get justice in court. They would not rest till the chief minister was removed, he said.
Palaniswamy said in Salem that nobody can succeed in toppling his government or splitting the AIADMK. His faction would restore the frozen election symbol of "Two Leaves" for itself, he said.
Last week, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the DMK on a petition seeking an immediate floor test in the Assembly, told the Madras High Court that he feared the Speaker could disqualify these MLAs and conduct a floor test to facilitate Palaniswami to prove his legislative majority.
The Opposition parties have been demanding that the government should prove its majority on the floor of the House after 19 legislators asked the Governor to initiate the process to install a new chief minister.
DMK leader MK Stalin said on Monday that the Speaker's action amounted to "cruel murder" of democracy and was an attempt by the chief minister to take a shortcut to prove his majority in the Assembly.
The Madras High Court had ordered that a floor test should not be held till 20 September.
Stalin had claimed earlier that the Palaniswamy government has lost majority support after the legislators belonging to Dhinakaran group withdrew their support to Palaniswami. On Monday, Stalin asked both the Speaker and the chief minister to resign.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Sep 18, 2017 22:37:08 IST