Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami on Wednesday claimed his government enjoyed the support of “all the AIADMK MLAs” in the Assembly even as the legislators loyal to sidelined party deputy general secretary TTV Dhinakaran continued to stay put at a Puducherry resort. “There are 135 MLAs in the party, including the speaker, and the government has the support of all of them,” he told reporters at the airport here, before leaving for Erode by road.
Stating that 109 MLAs had attended the meeting convened by him in Chennai on Tuesday, Palaniswami said the other party legislators could not be there due to various reasons. But he asserted that his government had the support of all of them. His comments come a day after state Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar claimed that 111 MLAs had attended the meet convened by the chief minister.
According to reports, as many as 17 rebel AIADMK MLAs are currently lodged at a resort in neighbouring Puducherry. A group of 19 MLAs, loyal to Dhinakaran, had met Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao on August 22, expressed lack of confidence in the chief minister and demanded his ouster. This was a day after the merger of the AIADMK factions, led by Palaniswami and current deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam respectively.
The strife in the ruling party prompted the opposition parties to allege that the Palaniswami government had lost the majority in the Assembly. They have been pressing for a floor test in the House. In the 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly, which has one seat vacant (R K Nagar, represented by late J Jayalalithaa), the AIADMK has 134 MLAs, excluding the speaker, while the DMK-led opposition has 98 legislators.
Replying to a question on the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), Palaniswami said the state government had exerted “maximum pressure” on the Centre, seeking an exemption to Tamil Nadu from the ambit of the exam.
However, he added that the state had to comply with the Supreme Court directive in this regard. The recent suicide of a 17-year-old medical aspirant, Anitha, who was believed to be upset over her poor NEET score and the state not getting an exemption from the common eligibility test, had triggered an outrage in Tamil Nadu.
The daughter of a daily wage earner, Anitha was found hanging at her house in Ariyalur district on September 1. On DMK working president M K Stalin’s criticism about his government, Palaniswami said the opposition leader had been levelling allegations from day one and added that whatever he said was “incorrect”.