Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami won a dramatic trust vote on Saturday after opposition DMK legislators were thrown out for unprecedented violence and Congress MLAs walked of the assembly. (LIVE UPDATES)
Palaniswami won by 122 votes to 11 after Speaker P Dhanapal twice adjourned the House within a couple of hours when DMK legislators broke furniture and microphones, threw papers and even occupied his chair.
The eviction of the 88 DMK legislators and the secrecy surrounding the special session are likely to take the sheen away from Paliniswamy’s win, which also hands a moral victory to disgraced AIADMK chief VK Sasikala in a high-stakes battle against her challenger O Panneerselvam.
His victory meant that Panneerselvam’s gamble of revolting against Sasikala – a long-time confidante of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa – has failed and his dreams of holding on to the top job gone, at least for the time being.
Palaniswami, 62, was propped up as the chief minister by Sasikala after the Supreme Court sent her to jail in a 20-year-old corruption case.
He was invited to form the government on Thursday after he convinced the governor about the number of MLAs supporting him.
Panneerselvam, with barely a handful of legislators in his camp, however, found support from the DMK, the Congress and the All India Muslim League.
But what took everyone by surprise was the aggression of the DMK which backed Panneerselvam’s demand for a secret ballot. It was rejected by the Speaker.
TV visuals showed DMK legislators surrounding and shoving the Speaker before he gets up and leaves. Two DMK MLAs, identified as Kuka Selvam and Ranganathan, was seen sitting on the Speaker’s chair briefly.
“They tore my shirt and insulted me,” Dhanpal told reporters outside the House.
DMK working president MK Stalin countered the allegation. He walked out of his car with his shirt unbuttoned and gesturing to reporters that he was assaulted inside the assembly.
The Speaker barred media into the assembly and even cut off power to a public announcement system at the press room inside the assembly.
Amid the chaos, one assembly staff was taken away in an ambulance after he felt dizzy and collapsed, reports said.
When the House resumed at 1 pm after the first adjournment, the Speaker evicted all DMK legislators for their unruly behavior but they refused to leave, forcing him to adjourn the House again.
The Panneerselvam camp and DMK was pushing for a secret ballot in the hope that fence-sitters in the Palaniswami camp will vote for the former chief minister.
The belief was reinforced after one party MLA, Arun Kumar, joined Panneerselvam just hours before the vote, claiming he escaped from a seafront resort where Sasikala had herded all legislators a day after Pannerselvam’s revolt.
The former chief minister made a dramatic, late-night appearance at Jayalalithaa memorial in Chennai’s Marina Beach, mediated for more than half-an-hour and then told newsmen that he was forced to resign by Sasikala’s supporters. But he failed to garner enough numbers to seriously challenge Palaniswami.
The governor had given Palaniswami 15 days to prove his majority but the CM chose to take the floor test immediately – apparently over concerns that the lawmakers confined in the resort were getting anxious.