Chennai : In a controversial action, Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal on Monday disqualified 18 dissident ruling AIADMK legislators who had met the Governor last month and submitted letters withdrawing support for Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.
Assembly Secretary K Boopathy said the Speaker had disqualified the MLAs under the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly (Disqualification on Ground of Defection) Rules, 1986 .
Consequently, these 18, who are backing Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran, ceased to be legislators.
With this action, the strength of the House in Tamil Nadu has come down to 215 from 234 as by-election has not been conducted in Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency which fell vacant following the death of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The AIADMK now has a strength 117 (including Speaker) in the Assembly, while the Opposition’s strength is only 98.
On August 22, the Palaniswami government had lost majority in the House after 19 legislators submitted identically worded letters to Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao stating they had lost confidence in the chief minister. However, the MLAs had specifically mentioned that they had not given up membership of their AIADMK to avoid disqualification under the anti-defection law.
Following this, government’s Chief Whip Rajendran sought their disqualification saying their actions amounted to defection under the Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
The dissidents had, however, argued that they had not withdrawn support to the AIADMK government but only wanted the chief minister to be replaced.
Acting on the Chief Whip’s letter, Speaker Dhanapal issued notices to the 19 legislators asking them to show cause why they should not be disqualified.
One legislator STK Jakkaiyan had by then switched over the Palaniswami camp claiming he was pressured to submit the letter of withdrawal of support of the government to the Governor. After going through their explanations, the Speaker was convinced that they attracted disqualification and passed orders appropriately.
Incidentally just last week former Union Minister and senior lawyer Kapil Sibal appearing for the DMK in the Madras High Court had expressed apprehension that the Speaker might disqualify the dissident MLAs and conduct a floor test to facilitate Palaniswami prove his majority in the House.