The power struggle within the AIADMK has taken a new turn with the Tamil Nadu assembly Speaker P. Dhanapal disqualifying all the 18 legislators supporting dissident leader TTV Dhinakaran under Schedule 10 of the Indian Constitution which deals with the anti-defection law. With this, the total strength of the AIADMK in the Assembly has come down to 116. Of the 234 legislators, the number is now 231 excluding Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi and the Speaker. If 18 MLAs are disqualified, the total number comes down to 213 and the halfway mark is 106. The ruling faction of Chief Minister E. Palanisamy after the recent merger of the faction led by O. Panneerselvam has the support of 114 MLAs which is more than the required numbers to form the majority. But so intense has been the jockeying for power within the AIADMK since the demise of J. Jayalalithaa that there is no knowing what counter-step Dhinakaran, egged on by his jailed aunt V.K. Sasikala would take to retrieve lost ground. For now, the Dhinakaran faction has decided to take the disqualification issue to the Madras High Court.
So exasperated by the goings-on and the naked lust for power are the people of Tamil Nadu that they are waiting for fresh elections which in the normal course are nearly four years away. The legislators, on the other hand, are petrified of the wrath of the electorate and are hoping that the situation does not escalate to a stage where President’s rule and a subsequent snap election do not become inevitable. All eyes will now be on the court. Meanwhile, the High Court has sought to apply brakes on the dithering by the Election Commission on the allotment of the party symbol, ordering it to decide the matter latest by October 31. It is being hoped that there would be light at the end of the tunnel after the current round of jockeying ends hopefully after the EC’s decision and the high court’s verdict in the disqualification case. The DMK, which has been waiting in the wings in the hope that it would be able to wrest power from the AIADMK whenever the elections take place, is on watch as the principal opposition. Its leader, M.K. Stalin has only to ensure that he does not surrender the advantage he has gained through internecine quarrels within the AIADMK.