A duly elected government in southern India reduced to a minority with minimum governance for the past 28 days will remain so for another 14 days after a court ruling on Wednesday.
The unprecedented situation in Tamil Nadu state is blamed on Governor C Vidyasagar Rao for acting on behalf of the federal government and Speaker Dhanapal who disqualified 18 lawmakers supporting the faction of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (All India Anna Dravidian Progress Federation or AIADMK) led by TTV Dinakaran. Dinakaran is leading the splinter group as his aunt and party head KP Saskila is serving a four-year jail term in Bangalore for corruption charges.
In a setback for opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Dinakaran faction, and relief for E Palaniswamy and O Paneerselvam (EPS-OPS) group of AIADMK, the Madras High Court on Wednesday declined to stay the disqualification of 18 lawmakers.
The court will review the case on October 4. Until then, the disqualification of 18 MLAs stays.
The court also barred any by-election notification for the seats held by the 18 lawmakers.
In a game of numbers, the EPS-OPS faction expected a smooth sail through the floor test in the state assembly if the court upheld the qualification of 18 lawmakers. The government can easily reach the half-way mark of 108 votes to prove its majority in the assembly in case of a floor test. But there will not be floor tests until counter applications of disqualified lawmakers are reviewed.
For the Dinakaran faction, the court ruling came as a setback as they were sure of toppling the EPS government if the court reversed the speaker’s decision to disqualify the 18 lawmakers.
The next hearing of the cases is scheduled on October 4.
Eight of the lawmakers who challenged their disqualification had relevant points to make:
- Applying anti-defection law to disqualify them is questionable since they never defected to another party. All they wanted was removal of corrupt chief minister EPS and protection of their rights as lawmakers.
- They see the speaker’s disqualification move as a ploy to secure majority for EPS government if a floor test is ordered.
- Speaker wrongly interpreted their memo to the Governor expressing lack of confidence in EPS as amounting to “voluntarily giving up” their party membership.
- Governor was reluctant to order floor test as he wanted the EPS government to survive Dinakaran faction’s revolt.
DMK was working hand in glove with the Dinakaran faction to topple the EPS government and come back to power after six years. The question now is will all 89 lawmakers of DMK resign to force the governor to dissolve the house and call for fresh polls in the state?
The fresh date for the next court hearing gives EPS-OPS faction more time to lure lawmakers from the TTV camp nestled in a resort in Coorg in Karnataka. Three independent lawmakers are already seeking plum cabinet posts with EPS government.
While it the game of numbers that decide the fate of a government in a democracy, resort politics of Sasikala-Dinakaran faction has given Tamil Nadu politics a bad name. Lawmakers supporting Dinakaran are enjoying a good time in resorts when they are supposed to be serving their respective constituencies.
“What plagues Tamil Nadu politics is corruption. These MLAs have no shame at all to spend weeks in luxury resorts. Voters should reject them in the next elections,” said EBG Menon, a political observer.
“Voters should have the right to recall such errant lawmakers,” he added.