Rowdy protests are not new to the Tamil Nadu Assembly and there have been a few instances in the past which have matched the shame of Saturday’s episode. Still, the Tamil Nadu Assembly saw one of its lowest points in recent history with high drama unfolding before a floor test. What was meant to be a vote of confidence turned to a violent ruckus. Chairs were thrown, documents torn and hostility was rampant on the House floor. Even Speaker P Dhanapal claimed his shirt was torn and he was insulted. Former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswami and DMK working president M K Stalin had key roles to play in yesterday’s event, particularly the latter. The role of each of the protagonists must be decoded to understand how the proceedings stooped to such a low.
DMK working president M.K. Stalin tried to make the most of the crisis in AIADMK and came out in support of former chief minister O Panneerselvam. In the initial few minutes of the trust vote, slogans were raised by the DMK in support of OPS and Stalin interrupted the voting regularly to show his party’s support to the ousted chief minister. He vociferously demanded that the Speaker give his nod for a secret ballots. The Speaker refused to entertain Stalin’s demand and kept the process going at which point the DMK leader and his party members gheraoed Dhanapal. Marshalls had to be called in to evict the MLAs from the House.
E. Palaniswami at the helm for four years doesn’t help DMK and Stalin’s political situation in the state in any way. With around four years to go for the next Assembly elections, swaying the proceedings against EPS was the strategy DMK came in with. It was highly uncharacteristic to see DMK MLAs voice support to OPS, who was former CM, head of AIADMK legislature party and close loyalist to Jayalalithaa. But the situation was without irony and political opportunism was out in the open. Even after eviction from the House, Stalin met Governor Vidyasagar Rao to protest and sat on a fast at the Marina beach at which point he was detained by the police.
The episode was also a cue for Stalin to come out of the shadows of his father and DMK chief Karunanidhi and to derail OPS’ popularity as the principal Opposition to the AIADMK and dampen OPS’ rising stature in state politics.
Speaker P Dhanapal
Speaker P Dhanapal ran the show much to the ire of OPS camp and DMK, denying secret ballot asserting his authority in the House. He claimed he carried out the procedure according to legal procedure. Given that the Speaker has full authority on how to manage the house proceedings, several constitutional experts later stated that secret voting is not done in Assemblies.
The Speaker was outraged to the point that he had to call in the marshalls and force the DMK MLAs out. He claimed whatever transpired in the House was pre-planned. The manner in which the DMK refused to take part in the vote gave a hint that the opposition party wanted to sit out peacefully while the AIADMK solves its political crisis. There were those who argued that the Speaker had rushed into the voting process. However, he was able to oversee the end of what has been a long-drawn-out political crisis in the state.
The Chief Minister seemed a satisfied person, having sealed the support of 122 MLAs as he had claimed earlier. His was a show of strength and he came out on tops, with the help of presidium chairman Madhusudanan. EPS and his camp would’ve never agreed for a secret ballot as that may have potentially allowed MLAs to defect to the OPS camp. His camp stood its ground and with some luck at the hands of the speaker’s decisions, EPS was able to sail through the trust vote.
Panneerselvam’s role was more visible before the vote of confidence as he had sacked AIADMK presidium chairman Madhusudanan and revoked primary membership of V K Sasikala and her nephew, the newly appointed deputy chief secretary, TTV Dinakaran. He also sacked nine district secretaries. OPS tried desperately not to look a defeated leader, but EPS had landed the knockout blow. Panneerselvam didn’t really condemn Stalin and DMK’s actions in the House which also sends a signal as to what may have conspired behind the scenes.