CHENNAI:Eighteen lawmakers of Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK loyal to sacked chief VK Sasikala have been disqualified in a move that indemnifies Chief Minister E Palaniswami, should he face a trust vote.
The rebel lawmakers have been sequestered in different resorts for days by Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran, who was also removed recently as the party’s number 2. Currently, they are at the luxury Paddington Resort and Spa in Karnataka’s Coorg.
Action against them under the anti-defection law comes just before a Madras High Court decision on whether the Chief Minister should face a trust vote.
Mr Dhinakaran, as well as the opposition DMK, had told the court that the Palaniswami government has been reduced to a minority after 19 lawmakers submitted letters withdrawing their support.
In the 234-member state assembly, the Chief Minister has the assured support of 112 lawmakers. In case of a trust vote, the EPS government could have been three short of a majority.
With the disqualification of 18 legislators, the half-way mark has come down to 107, which means the Chief Minister will breeze through a test of strength.
The DMK’s MK Stalin and Mr Dhinakaran’s group had met Governor C Vidyasagar Rao over the last few weeks urging him to ask EPS to prove his majority.
The Dhinakaran camp finally went to the Madras High Court in desperation after one rebel lawmaker switched sides.
The state government’s top lawyer had earlier declined to give any assurance on the proceedings before the Speaker. “I can’t say there would be no action against the MLAs,” he told the court last week.
Before taking action, assembly Speaker P Dhanapal had asked the rebels to rebut charges of anti-party activity by Friday.
The legislators had been demanding the removal of EPS since he joined hands with the faction led by O Panneerselvam or OPS, a former Chief Minister who had revolted against Ms Sasikala when she took control of the party and tried to become Chief Minister after J Jayalalithaa’s death.