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Madras HC's split verdict in 18 MLAs disqualification case: Thin majority will make AIADMK edgy if trust vote called

A two-judge Madras High Court bench delivered a split verdict in the disqualification case of 18 MLAs pledging allegiance to suspended party leader TTV Dhinakaran. Chief Justice Indira Banerjee upheld Speaker's decision but Justice M Sundar disagreed. The matter now will be heard by a third judge nominated by Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh. There will be no fresh elections in 18 constituencies and no floor test till the decision of the third judge.

The verdict may open up a fresh round of political squabbles and legal battles and could even have a bearing on the stability of the state government of Chief Minister K Palaniswami.

File image of K Palaniswami. Courtesy: Twitter/@CMOTamilNadu

File image of K Palaniswami. Courtesy: Twitter/@CMOTamilNadu

If the three-judge bench of the high court upholds the disqualification, there will be by-elections held for the 18 constituencies. Considering Dhinakaran contested a by-election as an Independent candidate and secured victory from Chennai's RK Nagar in December, the MLAs close to him are likely to do the same. There will be another trust vote, but with the strength of the Tamil Nadu Assembly reducing to 215, the AIADMK has enough numbers in the bag to feel secure.

However, things will get murky if the court cancels the disqualification. The 18 MLAs in question were disqualified on the eve of a trust vote against the Palaniswami government by the Speaker in September last year.

If their disqualification is quashed, there will be another trust vote. And this is where the AIADMK could fall short of an absolute majority required to retain power.

Here's a look at the current constitution of the Tamil Nadu Assembly:

The AIADMK is the single largest party in the Tamil Nadu Assembly with 117 MLAs, exactly 50 percent of the House strength of 234. However, with the Speaker unable to cast a vote, the number would come down to 116.

Furthermore, three more AIADMK MLAs had quit the Palaniswami camp to join Dhinakaran: S Karunaas, M Thamimun Ansari and U Thaniyarasu. If they also vote against the government in case of a trust vote, Palaniswami's hand will be weakened even further.

However, the lack of numbers for the AIADMK may not necessarily benefit the Opposition alliance either. The DMK and Congress, in an alliance in Tamil Nadu since over 10 years, have 98 MLAs: DMK has 89, Congress has eight and the Indian Muslim League (IUML) has one. Dhinakaran is the sole Independent MLA in Tamil Nadu, and with his support, the number rises to 99.

However, the AIADMK could issue a whip to the three legislators who switched sides and force them to vote for the party under the anti-defection law. Failure to do so may result in their disqualification from the Assembly. This will bring the size of the House further down and necessitate further by-elections.

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With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Jun 14, 2018 15:08 PM

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