CHENNAI: Nineteen legislators of Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK are reportedly being moved to a resort outside Chennai, as the party’s sidelined number 2 TTV Dhinakaran attempts to keep them together and away from the influence of Chief Minister E Palaniswami. This morning, these MLAs met the state’s Governor demanding that Mr Palaniswami be removed as Chief Minister because he has “lost their confidence.”
They have called yesterday’s merger between the two AIADMK factions led by Mr Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam illegal and are opposed to the decision to expel party chief VK Sasikala, who is in jail. The MLAs have stressed that they are not giving up their membership of the AIADMK, nor are they withdrawing support to the party’s government. They want a change of chief minister.
In identical letters to Governor CH Vidyasagar Rao, the 19 legislators have asked him to to “intervene and institute the constitutional process,” accusing Mr Palaniswami of corruption, abuse of power and favouritism. They have alleged that by merging with the O Panneerselvam or OPS faction that voted against him in a trust vote in the assembly only six months ago, Chief Minister Palaniswami has “forfeited the confidence of the people,” and so they are withdrawing their support to him.
Opposition leader MK Stalin of the DMK has said that given the new circumstances, the Governor must ask Mr Palaniswami or EPS, to seek another confidence vote in the state assembly.
After yesterday’s merger, the AIADMK has 134 legislators in the 234-member assembly. That is only 17 more than the 117 needed for a majority. With 19 MLAs rebelling, Chief Minister Palaniswami could be in trouble if he has to face a vote.
TTV Dhinakaran, appointed by his aunt Ms Sasikala as the AIADMK’s deputy general secretary before she went to jail, did not accompany the rebel legislators to meet the Governor today. In a series of tweets last night he vowed to “weed out betrayers” seen to refer to Mr Palaniswami, whose accession to the top post too was arranged by Ms Sasikala before she left Chennai for the Bengaluru prison where she is lodged in a corruption case.
The AIADMK had split weeks after the death in December of its powerful chief J Jayalalithaa, when OPS, forced by Ms Sasikala to step down as chief minister, rebelled. With her plan to be chief minister scuttled by the court order convicting her in a corruption case, Ms Sasikala had sequestered more than 120 of the AIADMK’s legislators at a resort outside Chennai before Mr Palaniswami’s trust vote.
The two factions had been working on the merger for months and finally came together yesterday, with EPS and OPS shaking hands and making a joint announcement. The expulsion of Ms Sasikala was a key demand of the OPS camp.
Under the merger agreement, OPS, who was forced by Ms Sasikala to step down as chief minister in February this year, has settled for the role of deputy to EPS the man who worked under him as a minister months ago.