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Days after Tamil Nadu trust vote, Stalin to discuss strategy with Sonia, Rahul

Stalin is expected to discuss his strategy vis-à-vis the AIADMK and the new Palaniswami government in Tamil Nadu

india Updated: Feb 24, 2017 14:48 IST
DMK working president MK Stalin greets his supporters after being detained by police for staging a protest in Chennai .
DMK working president MK Stalin greets his supporters after being detained by police for staging a protest in Chennai . (PTI file photo)

DMK working president MK Stalin will meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Friday, a week after AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala loyalist Edappadi K Palaniswami won the tumultuous trust vote in the Tamil Nadu assembly.

At the meetings, described as courtesy calls by Congress leaders, Stalin is expected to discuss with the Gandhis his strategy vis-à-vis the AIADMK and the new government in the state.

The Congress had stood solidly by the DMK in its decision to seek the vote of confidence through a secret ballot.

The DMK wanted secret voting as it expected some AIADMK legislators to jump ship and defeat Palaniswami’s trust vote. Its strategy was driven by the hope that a split in the AIADMK would force the governor to impose President’s Rule in the state, which would eventually go for fresh elections. That is the best case scenario for the DMK at a time when its rival AIADMK is deeply divided following the death of J Jayalalithaa in December last year.

From walking out of the Tamil Nadu assembly wearing a torn shirt to holding a protest on Marina beach and questioning the Palaniswami government’s legitimacy, Stalin appears to be ensuring that it is the DMK and not former caretaker chief minister O Paneerselvam that is leading the charge against the Sasikala faction of the ruling AIADMK.

The Congress, which also favours fresh polls at this juncture, sided with the DMK as it would not take any step that could antagonise its trusted ally. The party, however, is divided on the AIADMK issue. While Tamil Nadu Congress chief S Thirunavukkarasar and his loyalists support the Sasikala faction, former finance minister P Chidambaram and many ex-state unit chiefs such as EVKS Elangovan and KV Thangkabalu want the Congress to keep away from the AIADMK’s internal crisis. The worry for the Congress is the BJP’s growing interest in Tamil Nadu politics.

Soon after his arrival in the national capital on Thursday, Stalin met President Pranab Mukherjee and urged him to annul the February 18 vote of confidence and direct governor C Vidyasagar Rao to order a fresh floor test through secret ballot. Palaniswami had won the trust vote 122-11 after eviction of DMK legislators.

“After throwing all 89 DMK MLAs out, a confidence vote was held amid unprecedented violence. We have apprised the President about it and the way in which assembly speaker conducted the proceedings in favour of the ruling party,” Stalin said after the meeting. As examples, he cited Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand where trust vote had been sought through secret ballot.

Attacking AIADMK general secretary Sasikala, he said: “In Tamil Nadu, benami rule by criminal Sasikala has been established.”

Stalin has requested assembly speaker P Dhanapal to provide him with unedited footage of the February 18 proceedings as he was asked by the Madras high court to submit recordings to substantiate his claim that the trust vote was held by “contravening” the rules of the assembly.

The DMK had filed a petition in the Madras high court seeking direction to the authorities to annul the speaker’s decision to accept the trust vote. It had sought a fresh secret ballot under a monitoring committee comprising the state chief secretary, principal secretary to the governor and an official from the election commission.