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DMK legislators boorish behaviour inside House is a black mark on Tamil Nadu politics

DMK has blotted its own copybook by trying to disrupt the confidence vote in the Tamil Nadu assembly

By: Editorial |
Updated: February 21, 2017 11:10:22 am
Chennai: A view of Tamilnadu Assembly during the Vote of confidence motion in Chennai on Saturday.PTI Photo (PTI2_18_2017_000192A) Chennai: A view of Tamilnadu Assembly during the Vote of confidence motion in Chennai on Saturday. (Source: PTI)

The DMK, the main opposition in the Tamil Nadu assembly, had seemed correct in its conduct even as the ruling AIADMK squabbled in public over its leadership choices. When the caretaker chief minister, O. Panneerselvam (OPS), broke off with party chief V.K. Sasikala over her bid to replace him as the head of the government, the DMK watched from the sidelines rather than actively encouraging MLAs to cross over. It openly appreciated the leadership qualities of OPS, but refrained from offering public support to his government if he split the party. Party leader M.K. Stalin’s criticism of the AIADMK’s decision to replace OPS and its inordinate haste to make Sasikala the chief minister was framed in political terms. Hence, the boorish behaviour of its legislators in the assembly on Saturday, when the new chief minister, Edappadi Palaniswamy, moved a confidence motion, has become a blot on the DMK’s recent record in conducting itself as a responsible opposition party.

Perhaps, the DMK saw a political opportunity in forcing a secret ballot. It was clear that OPS lacked the numbers to force a split in the AIADMK’s legislature party; with a whip in place, few from Sasikala’s faction would have crossed over during the open vote. As the speaker of the assembly explained, the secret ballot has not been provisioned for, nor has there been any precedent in Tamil Nadu’s legislative history favouring it. The DMK ought to have accepted the speaker’s ruling and not indulged in the vandalism that forced the expulsion of party MLAs from the House. The unsavoury spectacle of MLAs removing chairs and mikes in the assembly to prevent the vote of confidence was a return to the 1980s, when legislators infamously assaulted the then AIADMK chief, J. Jayalalithaa. The DMK, which has since moved the Madras High Court to nullify Saturday’s vote, must wait out its time. It needs to work as a constructive opposition, expose the government’s failings if there are any, and seek a mandate when the state goes to polls in 2021, or earlier — in the event of contradictions within the AIADMK forcing a snap poll.

Chaotic scenes in the assembly in the 1980s had led to a complete breakdown in relations between the AIADMK and DMK. It’s only recently that the party leaderships had seemed to bury the hatchet somewhat and start building a working relationship in the House. Hopefully, the incidents on Saturday are an aberration and will have little impact on the conduct of the assembly in the coming days.

This first appeared in print under the headline A Black Mark 

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