MLAs loyal to Dhinakaran revolt against CM Palaniswami, DMK demands trust vote

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Chennai, Aug 22 (PTI): Unhappy over the merger with O Panneerselvam faction, MLAs loyal to sidelined AIADMK leaders Saikala and TTV Dhinakaran on Tuesday told the Governor that they no longer had confidence in Chief Minister K Palaniswami, prompting the opposition DMK to demand a trust vote.

“We are going to initiate efforts to bring in a new CM with the help of our supporting MLAs,” Dhinakaran supporter and Andipatti MLA Thanga Tamil Selvan told reporters following a meeting with Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao a day after the patch-up between the camps led by Palaniswami and rebel leader Panneerselvam. The Dhinakaran camp had on Monday claimed the support of 25 AIADMK MLAs. Raj Bhavan sources confirmed that the meeting took place this on Monday morning, but did not divulge details, including the number of members in the delegation and the nature of their interaction with Rao.

“We have informed the Governor that we don’t have confidence in the Chief Minister,” Selvan said after the MLAs owing allegiance to Dhinakaran, nephew of jailed AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala, met Rao. Of the 234-member Assembly, the AIADMK has 134 MLAs excluding the Speaker. Late chief minister Jayalalithaa’s RK Nagar constituency is still vacant. The DMK has 89 seats followed by its allies Congress with eight and IUML one seat.

Seeking to capitalise on the developments, principal opposition DMK shot off a letter to the Governor asking him to convene the assembly and direct Palaniswami to prove his majority in the House. Asked about the possibility of the Palaniswami government facing a trust vote, Selvan said that was “our intention.” “Our intention is that there should be a trust vote. So after that a new Chief Minister will be in place,” he claimed.  MLAs supporting Dhinakaran have been on a warpath against Palaniswami, questioning the merger of the Amma faction-led by him and Panneerselvam’s Puratchi Thalaivi Amma faction on Monday. Tamil Selvan criticised Palaniswami for aligning with Panneerselvam, who had been critical of the government till very recently.

“The 122 (AIADMK) MLAs had made Palaniswami Chief Minister because Chinnamma (Sasikala) asked us to do so. Panneerselvam had voted against the government (in the February 18 trust vote). “He wanted to split the party and topple the government. Yet you give the Deputy Chief Minister’s post to him. What is the need for that now?” he asked. He also expressed anguish over efforts to remove Sasikala from the party, saying it was she who ensured the continuation of the AIADMK government following Panneerselvam’s revolt in February last. In a related development, Dhinakran announced removal of senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP R Vaithilingam from the primary membership of the party. The move came a day after Vaithilingam, a loyalist of Palaniswami, said steps would be taken for the removal of Sasikala from the AIADMK. Earlier, in his reaction to the merger, Dhinakaran dubbed it as a “betrayal” of party general secretary Sasikala. In a series of tweets on Monday night, he also questioned the durability of the arrangement.

“It is not a merger. It is a commercial agreement reached for self-interest and hunger for positions and to protect posts,” Dhinakaran charged. He also claimed that not only the AIADMK cadres, but even the public would not forgive “those who betrayed the general secretary who made Pannerselvam and Palaniswami the chief ministers after the death of Jayalalithaa”. His tweets came hours after the factions merged and Panneerselvam, who had challenged Sasikala’s leadership, was appointed the deputy chief minister and his close aide K Pandiarajan a minister.  Responding to Dhinakaran’s loyalist MLAs meeting the Governor, opposition parties including DMK, said Palaniswami should now prove his majority. DMK Working President and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly M K Stalin in a letter to Rao claimed that “consequent upon identical letters given by 22 MLAs to the Governor expressing lack of confidence on the Chief Minister, an unprecedented constitutional crisis has erupted.” The DMK leader said, as a result of the letters given by MLAs, the incumbent government led by Palanisamy has “lost” its majority.

He said in a similar previous occasion in Karnataka, the Governor of that state had directed then Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa to prove his majority in the House. Any inordinate delay in asking the Chief Minister to prove majority would pave the way for continuance of an ‘unconstitutional’ government, he said in the letter, a copy of which was circulated to the media here. “As the leader of Opposition, I therefore request the Governor to direct Palanisamy to prove his majority in the House immediately,” Stalin said. DMK will take a “good decision” on the trust vote at an appropriate time, he later told reporters. PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss also said that following the revolt of MLAs the Palaniswami government should prove its majority.

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