Palaniswami faces floor test today

Palaniswami faces floor test today

After days of dramatic developments in Tamil Nadu, the stage is set for a crucial floor test in the special session of the Assembly on Saturday to decide the fate of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.

Palaniswami, who was picked by party general secretary V K Sasikala for the chief minister’s post after her conviction in a corruption case, claims he has the support of 124 party MLAs in a House with 234 elected members.

His rival O Panneerselvam, who revolted against Sasikala, so far appears to have the support of only about 10 AIADMK members. But he may be counting on surprise developments. The Opposition DMK with 89 MLAs has said it will vote against Palaniswami in the trust vote.

The ruling AIADMK has a strength of 135 MLAs in the House (one seat is vacant following the death of J Jayalalithaa), the DMK 89, its allies Congress 8 and Indian Union Muslim League  1.

The test on the floor of the House will take place at 11 am.

This is the fourth such floor test in Tamil Nadu’s political history. The last one was held in 1988 when Jayalalithaa led a rebel group after the death of AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran.

To be on the safe side, the Sasikala faction has issued a whip asking all party MLAs to be present in the Assembly on Saturday, when Palaniswami seeks a vote of confidence to prove his majority.

Palaniswami needs the support of 117 MLAs in the House to win the trust vote and continue as chief minister.

AIADMK whip S Rajendran will ask party legislators to vote in support of the government. Therefore, those violating the whip might face action under the anti-defection law.

DMK working president M K Stalin said the decision to vote against Palaniswami was taken at the party MLAs’ meeting. IUML will also vote against the motion.  

Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president Su Thirunavukkarasar has indicated that his party MLAs will attend the session. But the party’s strategy will only be announced on Saturday morning after getting clearance from the leadership in Delhi.

Former chief minister Panneerselvam, who occupied the front row in the Assembly for several years, will take the back seat in the House during the voting.

With Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5 and the DMK president M Karunanidhi not able to come to the House due to his illness, a total of 232 members including the Speaker are expected to attend the session.

On Friday morning, the Panneerselvam camp led by former education minister K Pandiarajan met Speaker P Dhanapal and demanded a secret ballot when the motion of confidence is moved in the House.

Secretariat sources said Pandiarajan also demanded extra security for the group in the House.

Palaniswami, accompanied by senior ministers, visited the resort where party legislators loyal to Sasikala have been staying for more than ten days. An AIADMK source claimed that all the MLAs there were still with Sasikala’s CM choice.

“They will be travelling by a special bus from the resort to attend the Assembly session," the source said. On the eve of the floor test, former DGP R Nataraj said he would vote against Palaniswami. The Mylapore legislator, who was earlier seen as neutral, is not clear whether he would support Panneerselvam openly.

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