Ball not in my court, says TN Governor: Is he washing his hands off the AIADMK, DMK drama?
With 19 dissident legislators, who had withdrawn support from Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palanisami, still being in All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Tami Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao said he could not interfere or intervene in internal matters of the party. The ball wasn't in his court, Rao told a delegation of Opposition leaders.
This view was conveyed to Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol Thirumavalavan, G Ramakrishnan of the CPM, Mutharasan of the CPI and Jawahirullah of the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi when they met the Governor at Raj Bhavan and pleaded for a floor test.
Thirumavalavan quoted the Governor as having told them – “I am ready with the racquet to play ball, but the ball is not in my court.”
Thirumavalavan told the Governor whether the dissident legislators remained in the AIADMK or not could be determined only with a floor test as the Government had lost majority after the withdrawal of their support.
Whether the rebels wanted to change the chief minister or the government would be known only if the floor test takes place.
“If they vote for the present government, we will have no issue with that. Let them stand and be counted and that can happen only in the Assembly,” Thirumavalavan argued.
Leader of the Opposition and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president MK Stalin, who is taking these alliance leaders, along with the Congress, for a meeting with the President tomorrow, told reporters that the Governor was acting as an agent of the BJP and trying to save the government.
In this connection, he recalled how the Governor had cancelled all appointments in Mumbai and flew to Chennai to swear in Edappadi as CM and O Panneerselvam as deputy CM after the two factions merged.
He particularly referred to a tell-all visual repeatedly aired by local television channels, that showed a beaming Governor joining the hands of the two erstwhile rivals after the swearing-in.
Taking it in their own hands?
Ramakrishnan and Mutharasan said that if the Governor did not order a floor test – “We will take the issue to the people.”
Vidyasagar Rao, who is Maharashtra Governor and concurrently holding additional charge of Tamil Nadu, has played strictly by the rule book ever since Tamil Nadu was engulfed in a crisis after the passing Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
Evan when VK Sasikala, stumped by the adverse Supreme Court ruling in the assets case, manoeuvred to rule by proxy by installing Edappadi with the support of 122 MLAs, the Governor asked him to take a floor test within ten days.
Because the MLAs were presented before him in Raj Bhavan with their letters of support – Rao was left with no option.
The outsmarted BJP then, with its investigative agencies like the CBI and the income-tax weaned Edappadi away from the Sasikala-Dinakaran clan.
When Dinakaran proved to be a hard nut to crack despite a 45-day custody in Tihar Jail, the BJP forced the Pannerselvam and the Edappadi factions to merge to stave off the threat from him.
When Dinakaran hit back a day after the merger by asking 19 dissidents to give individual letters to the Governor, expressing lack of confidence in the government, the BJP found itself stumped yet again.
Its dilemma is now being reflected in the Governor’s action, or rather inaction.
Washing his hands off?
As opposition leaders have said, the Governor is shirking his responsibility. If the dissidents had only asked for a change of chief minister, the Governor could have taken the stand that it is not in his purview. But they clearly said they have lost confidence in the chief minister.
The only interpretation he can make is that the rebels have lost confidence in the government. The Constitution clearly says that there shall be a Council of Ministers under the chief minister. Such being the case, a lack of faith in Edappadi could only mean lack of confidence in the government.
After the Bommai judgment, the Governor’s role is limited. The court has held that the majority, or lack of it, of a government can be tested only on the floor of the Assembly and not in the lawns of the Raj Bhavan.
By saying that the rebels are still in the AIADMK, Governor expects the Speaker to disqualify them or the party to expel them.
Expulsion is not an option as they will save their seat and they can still vote against. They can be disqualified only if they defy the AIADMK whip when the floor test takes place, not before – as Speaker S Dhanapal is now trying to do by sending show-cause notices to them.
By taking cognizance of their meeting with the Governor to withdraw support, the Speaker contended that they have voluntarily relinquished the party He is acting in violation of the Supreme Court order passed in a similar situation in Karnataka in 2010 when 11 BJP legislators told the Governor they have lost confidence in Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa.
The Karnataka Speaker had then disqualified them after their meeting with the Governor and before the no-confidence motion against the chief minister was taken up.
The Supreme Court had quashed the Speaker’s ruling as it was against constitutional norms and principles of natural justice.
In Uttarakhand, when nine Congress rebel legislators sided with the BJP to bring down the Harish Rawat Government, the apex court upheld their disqualification and reinstated the dismissed Rawat ministry.
That stage is yet to be reached here. The Governor is delaying action to save the government. But the dissidents are firm. And equally determined is the 98-member DMK-led opposition to see that the government faces the Assembly floor test.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen