Disqualification petition: Move to save AIADMK Govt

T T V Dhinakaran. PTI file photo

By-elections to four assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu on May 19 has become more crucial for the Opposition DMK and ruling AIADMK, which is also making attempts to bring down the strength of the Assembly by seeking disqualification of 3 MLAs owing allegiance to rebel leader T T V Dhinakaran. 

By-elections to 18 assembly constituencies were held on April 18 along with Lok Sabha polls and elections to remaining four seats —  Aravakurichi, Sulur, Thiruparankundram and Sulur —  that are vacant will be held on May 19 and votes polled will be counted on May 23. AIADMK, DMK and rebel Dhinakaran’s AMMK are locked in a fierce triangular contest in the by-elections and all are trying to win a maximum number of seats.

The by-polls to 22 constituencies in all is very crucial for the continuance of the Edappadi K Palaniswami government which is precariously placed numerically in the Assembly. 

In a house of 234, whose strength now is 212, the AIADMK has 114 MLAs, including Speaker, DMK and allies (97) and Dhinakaran (1). The AIADMK has to win at least five to eight seats to keep its government afloat, but much before four constituencies go to by-polls and the votes in the 18 constituencies are counted, the ruling party has begun efforts to reduce the majority mark in the Assembly. 

Chief whip S Rajendran on Friday sought disqualification of three MLAs, who have sided with Dhinakaran, by submitting a petition before Speaker P Dhanapal. The AIADMK took the extraordinary step of seeking disqualification of its own members for the second time in two years emboldened by Madras High Court upholding the Speaker’s decision of expelling 18 MLAs from their membership in September 2017. 

The move by the AIADMK is seen as an attempt to bring down the strength of the Assembly if needed. Though the petition has been submitted, it is understood that the Speaker will seek clarification from the MLAs, but will decide only after the results are made public on May 23.

The move, political observers, say is to ensure the government stays. The MLAs will be disqualified only when the DMK wins maximum seats threatening the survival of the AIADMK government. If the government wins enough seats, then the Speaker would not act against the MLAs, they felt.

If the three MLAs are disqualified, the strength of the Assembly would come down to 231, effectively reducing the magic number to 116. Anyways the DMK will have to win 21 out of the 22 seats in the by-polls to form a coalition government with its allies, which looks impossible as of now. 

Political observer Prof Ramu Manivannan says the AIADMK’s move might have spawned due to their own perception of the ground reality. “It demonstrates that they have no confidence that they win anywhere between five to eight seats. The AIADMK has been going far and far and too far to defend its government. This seems to be the last effort and they are virtually peeling their own skin,” Manivannan, Head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Madras, told DH.

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