Unless a miracle saves him or his supporters spill out on the streets, this looks like the end of O Panneerselvam, the courtier who wanted to be the king.
On Thursday, Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao ended the stalemate and power games in the state by inviting E Palaniswami to form the government. He has been given 15 days to prove his majority in the Assembly.
With the governor's decision to invite E Palaniswami — a proxy nominated by VK Sasikala's camp after Chinnamma's incarceration — to form the next government, the acting chief minister faces a dark future that may end into oblivion.
The governor's decision ensures that either Panneerselvam goes out and breaks the AIADMK with the support of at least two-third legislators or loses his Assembly seat. His third option is, of course, to go back to the AIADMK and become its loyal servant again, provided the powers that control the party forgive and forget.
The law on elected legislators is clear: They can't break away unless their new faction has the support of at least two-third of the elected members. So, in Panneerselvam's case, he can trigger a rebellion only if he has at least 100 legislators. Given that he has just around a dozen MLAs in his camp, a split in the AIADMK looks unlikely.
Though Panneerselvam has been expelled from the party, he will continue to remain under the control of the party. In 2016, the government had clarified in the Supreme Court that upon expulsion from a political party, there is no automatic disqualification under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution from legislative assembly or Parliament and that member will continue as an unattached member as per the direction of the Speaker.
“However, if there is any overt act of either joining any other political party voluntarily or defies any whip of any political party then he will attract the provision of the 10th Schedule and action can be taken against him by the Speaker," The Indian Express quoted the government's statement in the apex court.
This means if Panneerselvam and his supporters violate the AIADMK whip to support Palaniswami's government in case of a floor test, they could be expelled from the Assembly. So, if Panneerselvam wishes to remain a member of the legislature, he would have to obey the diktat of the new high command.
In many ways, the denouement appears rational and justified. Panneerselvam was a proxy for J Jayalalithaa. After her demise, he had staked claim to her legacy citing his loyalty to the late chief minister. But, his current innings seems to have ended with Jayalalithaa. Courtiers and proxies often meet this end.
With Palaniswami in the driver's seat and the remote firmly in Sasikala's hand, it would be interesting to see how the new government deals with the BJP-led Centre. The Centre needs the government's support for getting its candidate elected as the next President of India. The AIADMK numbers are crucial also in the Rajya Sabha, where the government is currently outnumbered by the Opposition.
If Sasikala decides to avenge her humiliation by the Centre and decides to join the anti-BJP camp, it would turn out to be a lose-lose situation for everybody who supported Panneerselvam and thwarted Chinnamma's dream.
Perhaps the road to Jayalalithaa's legacy was jinxed. Everybody who tried to claim got scalded: Sasikala went to jail, the BJP got checkmated and Panneerselvam might disappear into oblivion.
Updated Date: Feb 16, 2017 14:09 PM