AMID REPORTS that nine more AIADMK MLAs, including four ministers, may join deputy general secretary T T V Dinakaran, top sources in the ruling faction said they were taking “emergency steps” to expel party general secretary V K Sasikala at a general council meeting to be held before August 31.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Wednesday called all senior ministers for an urgent meeting in Chennai Thursday. “The meeting will discuss two strategies: how to avoid a floor test, and how to speed up the process of sacking Sasikala from the party,” said a senior minister.
Sasikala’s expulsion will bring back MLAs from the Dinakaran camp, said a minister close to Chief Minister. “That is the only reason for them to stay in the Dinakaran camp. They will have to come back and save this government if Sasikala and Dinakaran are expelled,” he said, confirming that the general Council meeting to formally remove Sasikala would be held in the next fortnight.
“There may be 10 to 20 per cent Sasikala supporters, who are expected to oppose the decision to expel her. We have to deal with that challenge,” he said. Meanwhile, fearing that Sasikala’s supporters may be prevented from attending the General Council meeting, the Dinakaran camp is likely to file a petition in the Madras High Court seeking its intervention.
In the 233-member Tamil Nadu Assembly, Dinakaran already has the support of at least 22 MLAs (including three Independents), a number that can endanger the majority the ruling party has in the Assembly. While there are 123 AIADMK MLAs in all, nine more MLAs — including two ministers who lost key portfolios in the Cabinet reshuffle following the merger of the two factions led by Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam earlier this week — are reported to be backing Dinakaran.
On the ruling group’s plan to delay the floor test for now, another minister said the situation was in their favour as Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao is expected to go abroad, on a vacation, within the next few days. However, when contacted, Rao’s spokesperson in Chennai said the Governor was in Mumbai and he did not have any information about his holidays plans. Rao’s office in Mumbai said he was set to attend a number of programmes in the city in the coming days.
With the DMK also demanding a floor test, a senior Raj Bhawan official said Rao may find it difficult to delay it. “There may be different opinions and advice to buy more time to take the right decision,” said the source. Meanwhile, a senior leader close to Dinakaran said if the floor test was delayed, they would approach the court. He said they would ask the court to appoint a sitting judge to monitor the General Council meeting.
“If the court can assure transparency in the election of a much smaller film actors’ body, it will intervene in our party’s General Council meeting… External powers (have been) visibly trying to destabilise the government and the party for over six months,” he said. “We have information that they are planning to use the police and intelligence forces to prevent our people from attending the General Council meeting, in order to pass a unanimous decision to expel Sasikala. We cannot allow that to happen,” he said.