TN: Madras HC questions Speaker about non-action against OPS
The Madras HC, while hearing the petition of DMK and 18 disqualified AIADMK MLAs from TTV Dhinakaran's camp regarding the latter's disqualification from the Legislative Assembly, questioned Speaker P Dhanapal as to why no action was taken against Deputy CM O Panneerselvam (OPS) when he voted against the E Palaniswamy (EPS) government in the February confidence vote. How have the events unfolded? Read on!
After Jayalalithaa's demise in 2016, OPS was made CM. However, he rebelled and subsequently resigned making way for Sasikala, Jayalalithaa's trusted aide, to become CM. After conviction in a disproportionate assets case, Sasikala chose EPS to head the government. OPS demanded a floor test on 18 February'17, wherein 10 MLAs supporting him voted against EPS and one abstained. EPS, however, won the trust vote.
Following a controversy surrounding the "two leaves" symbol and the surfacing of bribery allegations against Dhinakaran, EPS approached OPS to unite the two AIADMK factions. OPS demanded Dhinakaran's and Sasikala's expulsion as conditions for the merger. Subsequently, Dhinakaran's suspension facilitated the OPS-EPS merger on 11 August. Then, on 12 September, Sasikala was sacked from her general secretary post.
On 18 September, TN Assembly speaker Dhanapal disqualified 18 MLAs supporting sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran. They were disqualified based on the state's anti-defection law. This worked in EPS' favor as it brought down the majority required in case of a floor test to 110 from 117 in the 234-member house. Dhinakaran had accused the speaker of colluding with the EPS government.
On September 25, the opposition DMK approached the Madras HC saying that as 18 MLAs were disqualified, why were OPS and 11 MLAs not disqualified on February 18's trust vote. DMK's argument was that as they had gone against AIADMK's whip and had violated the anti-defection law, they should be disqualified. Following this, the court today asked the Speaker to reply by October 20.
These events are contributing to the state's continued instability. The Madras HC has decided to hear the petition requesting a floor test only after the disqualification case ends. Thus, the OPS-EPS government continues to hang in limbo, as it faces attacks from Dhinakaran and the opposition. A prompt resolution of this situation would be needed to shift the focus back to governance.