With the united AIADMK ruling group still short of the 117-mark for a majority, the Madras High Court on Thursday stayed the conduct of a floor test in the Tamil Nadu Assembly until September 20. The court was hearing a petition from the Opposition DMK seeking directions for Governor Vidyasagar Rao to take immediate steps to conduct a floor test.
In the plea, the DMK had raised concerns that the Speaker might disqualify the 19 MLAs affiliated to ousted AIADMK leader T T V Dinakaran if the test was not held immediately. It claimed that such a move would favour the ruling group under Chief Minister E Palaniswami as the number of MLAs needed to prove his government’s majority would come down.
On Thursday morning, Justice M Duraiswamy asked the advocate general for instructions from the Speaker on the issue. Later, the government counsel submitted that the Speaker was not in a position to make any statement in court and that he was exercising his constitutional authority on the issue.
“When the Speaker is not ready to speak about the disqualification proceedings, there is nothing wrong in staying the floor test until the advocate general gets instructions from the governor,” Justice Duraiswamy said.
Appearing for the DMK, senior counsel Kapil Sibal said that the government was trying to manipulate its minority in the House into a majority by taking steps to disqualify the 19 rebel MLAs.
Arguing that any delay in conducting the floor test would lead to horse-trading, the petition —- filed by DMK working president M K Stalin — claimed that the Governor “by abdicating his constitutional duties is clearly working in tandem with the political party in power and deliberately delaying the trust vote”.
The plea claimed, “It is evident from the fact that in the interregnum, the minority government is employing various tactics (moving for disqualification of 19 MLAs of the Dinakaran group) so as to ensure that if any trust vote is called for, majority is proved by removing MLAs opposing such trust vote. Such facts would demonstrate how a deliberate attempt to delay a floor test to help the minority government, to allow it to remain in power, is being made.”
The plea claimed that in the House of 234, MLAs with no confidence in the government added up to 119, including 89 MLAs of DMK, eight of Congress, one IUML MLA and 21 MLAs of the Dinakaran camp. “This apart, many more MLAs who had earlier voted in support of the incumbent Chief Minister have also started to withdraw their support,” Stalin’s plea stated.
In Delhi, meanwhile, the Dinakaran faction approached the Election Commission, contending that the AIADMK general council meeting called by Palaniswami and the decisions taken, including the sacking of Sasikala as general secretary, were invalid.
A group of MPs and MLAs owing allegiance to the Dinakaran faction told the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners that according to the AIADMK by-laws, a general council meeting can be convened only by the general secretary or a person authorised by the top office-bearer.
The meeting in Chennai two days ago had also cancelled all appointments and decisions taken by Sasikala as party chief between December 30, 2016, and February 15, 2017, including the appointment of Dinakaran as deputy general secretary.
Rajya Sabha MP Vijila Sathyanath told The Indian Express that the delegation asked the EC to not accept the decisions taken at the meeting. “According to party by-laws, only the general secretary can convene the meeting, or one-fifth of the members should approach the general secretary to call for a meeting. None of these procedures were followed,” she said.
The meeting with the EC is being seen as a pre-emptive move as the united AIADMK group is expected to approach the commission, citing the resolutions passed at the meeting to reclaim the party’s two-leaves election symbol that is under dispute.