Tamil Nadu: Palaniswami wins trust vote but stares at instability

After much ruckus in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Saturday, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami wins the trust vote after protesting DMK MLAs get evicted

Photo by R Senthil Kumar/PTI
Photo by R Senthil Kumar/PTI

NH Political Bureau

Soon after Edappadi Palaniswami won the trust vote in Tamil Nadu Assembly on Saturday, actor Kamal Haasan tweeted “People of TamilNadu, Welcome your respective MLAs with the respect they deserve back home (sic)”.

With sentiments running high and social media reflecting disapproval of the VK Sasikala faction of the AIADMK, the drama is clearly far from over. The MLAs belonging to the Palaniswami faction will be under pressure to defect and even a swing of 10 more MLAs could reduce the faction to a minority.

A consensus seemed to be emerging that the instability and suspense could have been avoided if the Speaker had allowed secret voting as demanded by the DMK and other opposition parties.

So, should the Speaker have acted differently?

“What has happened in the House is not alright. However, the question is whether what the Speaker did is right,” says Constitution expert Subhash Kashyap. He says it’s indeed the Speaker’s discretion to decide how the voting should take place; but the Speaker was not above the House. “Given the unusual circumstances, there would have been nothing wrong if the voting was deferred by a day. The Speaker could have put it to the House whether it wanted a secret voting. Even the Governor could have also suggested a secret ballot,” says the former Secretary General of the Lok Sabha.

If there was a secret ballot, then perhaps the result could have been different too. “The Anti-Defection law would then not have applied then,” says Kashyap.

As things stand now, though Palaniswami has won the trust vote, the larger question is whether his government will remain stable and rule for the next four years given the apparent public opinion against it. There could be chaos even if a faction of, say, 10 disgruntled MLAs breaks away from the AIADMK faction headed by AIADMK General Secretary, who has been jailed in Bengaluru after being convicted in the disproportionate assets case.

Meanwhile, DMK leader MK Stalin met Governor C Vidyasagar Rao after the floor test and also announced that he would hold a protest at Chennai's Marina Beach, where the Jallikatu protests in a way has been changing the political landscape since. The last word doesn’t seem to have been said yet.

Earlier on Saturday, after much ruckus in the Tamil Nadu Assembly and after DMK members were evicted, Edappadi K Palaniswami won the vote of confidence by 122 votes for and 11 against. Congress and IUML members walked out in protest before the voting was finally taken up at around 3 pm, after the House that has 234 elected members was twice adjourned.

Palaniswami, who was sworn in as Chief Minister two days ago, had opted to prove his majority on Saturday itself though he was given 15 days by Governor C Vidyasagar Rao to prove majority support in the House.


However, the day did not exactly belong to either Palaniswami or his bête noire, former CM O Panneerselvam, who had revolted after being asked to step down as Chief Minister. Panneerselvam opposed the election of Sasikala as the leader of the AIADMK Legislature Party, and her staking claim to become the Chief Minister.

The DMK, which had maintained a dignified distance from the AIADMK drama all along, unveiled its cards on Saturday. Sensing the strong public sentiment against the Sasikala faction represented by Palaniswami, DMK legislators led by Working President MK Stalin were reported to have brought the House proceedings to a halt after demanding a secret ballot. The Congress, the IUML and the Panneerselvam faction too apparently joined in. That demand, of course, was declined by Speaker P Dhanapal and pandemonium broke out.

As reported earlier, microphones were broken, chairs thrown and papers torn in the assembly. The media wasn’t allowed inside the Assembly and there was no live telecast of the proceedings of the House, and only edited clips showing the pandemonium in the House were released. The Speaker alleged that he was attacked, and so did Stalin, who showed his torn shirt to reporters.

Panneerselvam later addressed the media later endorsing the view that there should have been a ‘secret ballot’. However, while Panneerselvam was seen so far as representing “the opinion of the masses”, the DMK seems to have edged him out today, on social media platform Twitter at least.

Actor Siddharth tweeted: “'Indha naadum naattumakkalum naasama pogattum' This is what we all feel right now. Well played #dmk As opposition you owe the people this (sic)!”

Panneerselvam, talking to the media after the voting, said that as the Governor had given 15 days for Palaniswami to prove his majority, it would have been better if the AIADMK legislators—who had been kept together at the Golden Bay Beach Resort near Chennai for several days leading up to the floor test—had first met their constituents before the voting. It has to be seen whether the new Chief Minister, seen as a proxy of Sasikala, can win the public over in the coming days.

With PTI inputs.

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Published: 18 Feb 2017, 6:31 PM