Palaniswami Upbeat As House To Vote In TN Battle On Saturday

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Chennai: The stage is set for Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, a loyalist of AIADMK Chief V K Sasikala lodged in Bangalore prison, to prove the majority of his government on Saturday.

When the Assembly goes for the trust vote at 11 am, there is a parallel with history — nearly 30 years ago, after the death of party founder M G Ramachandran in 1988, a similar show of strength split the party between MGR’s widow Janaki Ramachandran and the late J Jayalalithaa, the then propaganda secretary of the AIADMK.

A day after the Palaniswami government was sworn-in, the political scene in Chennai today was relatively calm after almost 10 frenetic days. Palaniswami was given 15 days time by governor in-charge C Vidyasagar Rao to prove his majority. However, he decided to seek the vote of confidence on Saturday itself.

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His (read: Sasikala’s) camp claims to have the support of 124 MLAs of the party’s 134. The House has a strength of 235. As the Sasikala camp, headed by Palaniswami and guided by T T V Dinakaran, deputy general secretary of AIADMK, seems to have a safe majority to face the floor test, the rival camp headed by O Panneerselvam, which claims to have the support of 10 MLAs, met Speaker P Dhanapal today.

The team led by former education minister K Pandiarajan, MLAs who switched over to Panneerselvam’s camp including S Semmalai and Shanmuganthan, did not reveal details of the meeting. Some of the leaders claimed that MLAs would change their mind and support Panneerselvam when they leave the private resort where they have been holed up ever since the crisis began.

AIADMK’s Mylapore MLA R Nataraj, a former DGP rank official, was the lone MLA who switched over to the Panneerselvam camp today. He claimed that his constituents wanted him to do so. However, Nataraj is not among the MLAs who stayed at the resort and official sources said Nataraj had given an affidavit earlier declaring support to the Sasikala camp.

The Panneerselvam camp went through its motions to sharpen the divide. It sacked the party’s interim general secretary V K Sasikala, her nephew Dinakaran and another relative S Venkatesh from the primary membership of the party. The party’s presidium chairman who switched over to Panneerselvam camp, E Madhusudanan, in his statement asked party cadres not to have any connection with Sasikala and two of her relatives. After Madhusudanan crossed over a week ago, Sasikala, too, had sacked him as presidium chairman and replaced him with senior party leader K A Sengottaiyan, who is now given a berth in the state cabinet.

AIADMK MLAs camping at Golden Bay resort in Kuvathur had a meeting on Friday evening ahead of the floor test session on Saturday. Palaniswami also attended the meeting. Last night, after the swearing-in ceremony, Palaniswami hosted a dinner party until midnight for all MLAs and Cabinet members at the resort. Meanwhile, yet again, it was the state Congress that was caught in a dispute on Friday with a majority of its leaders resisting Tamil Nadu Congress Chief (TNCC) S Thirunavukkarasar’s demand to support the Sasikala camp in the floor test.

A former AIADMK leader who had witnessed the 1988 floor test and who played a major role in helping late Jayalalithaa fight against the then rival faction led by MGR’s wife Janaki, Thirunavukkarasar reportedly demanded the eight Congress MLAs to vote for Sasikala’s camp. However, the majority including MLAs and its senior leaders opposed the idea as the party is already a member of the DMK alliance.

When a similar dispute cropped up last week, party vice president Rahul Gandhi had to call senior leaders to Delhi to settle the issue, reportedly a decision to take the final call after the assets case verdict. Talking to The Indian Express last week, Thirunavukkarasar denied reports of his stand in favour of the Sasikala camp. “We are in the DMK alliance. Whatever is happening in the AIADMK camp is their internal party issue. We have no such discussions to help either of them,” he said.