Unlikely allies: Dinakaran makes common cause with Stalin to topple AIADMK
Rebel AIADMK leader TTV Dinakaran has found a common cause with arch political rival and DMK working president MK Stalin: to send the Edappadi K Palaniswami government packing.
When Stalin moved the Madras High Court on 14 September to halt the possibility of a floor test in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, dissident AIADMK legislator P Vettrivel impleaded himself and got an interim stay till 20 September to frustrate the plan by Speaker S Dhanapal to disqualify him and other rebels ahead of the vote.
A game of chess
Denying that there was a political nexus, Dinakaran told reporters on Friday that his MLA impleaded himself in the case filed by Stalin after he got specific information that the Speaker planned to disqualify the rebels by Monday and then call the Assembly to push through the trust vote.
He, however, admitted that it was mainly because of Stalin’s petition that he came to know of the government’s plan.
He said: ”Our MLA Vettrivel was given an appointment to meet the Speaker between 3 and 4 pm on Thursday to explain his stand on disqualification notice. But at 2.15 pm, Advocate General Vijaya Narayanan told the court in response to Stalin’s petition that the disqualification process was already on”.
Thereupon, Vettrival impleaded himself and told the judge that he would be left with no time to challenge any adverse finding if the Assembly was allowed to meet immediately.
Both Stalin and Dinakaran have met the Governor with the same request to call the Assembly. Both hold that the Edappadi K Palaniswami has lost majority after the withdrawal of support by 19 rebels.
Taking this argument further, Stalin’s counsel Kapil Sibal said that “allowing this minority government to continue through unconstitutional means will be a travesty of justice”.
The question is whether the government will abide by the interim order. Chief Minister Palaniswami and his Deputy O Panneerselvam held consultations with Vijaya Narayanan at the Secretariat obviously on how to meet this challenge.
The Attorney General has already told the judge that no court can interfere with the power of the Speaker in regard to the conduct of Assembly proceedings.
Disqualification is a different process in which the Speaker will be taking on a quasi-judicial function which will be open to court scrutiny. There are several judgments in this regard.
Another issue is whether disqualifying a member on the basis that he has defied the whip by meeting the Governor and given a letter of withdrawal of support.
The whip is issued from time to time and is confined to the conduct of a member during voting on any particular issue in the Assembly. By a strange logic, AIADMK Whip Rajendran has, in his complaint to the Speaker, said these rebels have defied a whip issued in February last when the Palaniswami government sought the confidence vote.
“The whip has not been withdrawn and by defying it, these MLAs have voluntarily given up membership of AIADMK”, he reasoned.
The Tamil Nadu Assembly, he has quoted, itself says if any member defies the whip, the party concerned should give a complaint to the Speaker within three months. Otherwise it will be taken to mean that the party has condoned the member’s conduct. Yet the Speaker has chosen to entertain a complaint from the Whip seven months after the last vote.
In a similar situation, the Karnataka Speaker took cognisance of a meeting of dissident BJP legislators with the Governor in 2010 with a demand for the removal of Chief Minister Yeddyurappa and disqualified them ahead of the vote to save the government. The Speaker’s order was quashed by the Supreme Court.
The Karnataka Governor ordered an immediate floor test, while Tamil Nadu Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao has taken the stand that these rebels are still in the AIADMK, making it an intra- party affair.
Desperation kicks in
The Palaniswami government knows the law is against it. But it is in despair and is following the maxim, “desperate situations calls for desperate remedies”.
Equally desperate are Stalin and Dinakaran. Stalin has waited long enough for the coveted post and the longer the government lasts, the more the chances of the dissidents returning to its fold.
For the same reason, Dinakaran also wants to strike now as Palaniswami has proven through the general council that the party is with him. The Election Commission has been directed by the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court to give a finding on the symbol case by 31 October.
Knowing that time is not on his side, Dinakaran told reporters: ”This Palaniswami and Co government will be sent packing in a week”.
Even if this government falls, the Assembly will be kept in suspended animation for six months. Only if no alternative government is possible even after this cooling off period will the state be brought under President’s rule.
By then, it will be time for the next Lok Sabha election. This timeline would suit the BJP.