Tamil Nadu faces an unprecedented political uncertainty as a bitter tussle between AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala and acting chief minister O Panneerselvam is getting murkier every day. Tamil Nadu governor Vidyasagar Rao shows no hurry to allow Sasikala, who has support of a majority of MLAs, to form the government.
Here’s what three experts are saying to some of the pertinent questions about the current crisis in Tamil Nadu.
1. Can one person hold a state government to ransom like VK Sasikala is doing in Tamil Nadu?
Afzal Amanullah (former parliamentary affairs secretary): The point is, nothing prevents her from doing it. Floor test is the only way to decide who will be the CM and the ball is entirely in the governor’s court. He should act fast.
Sudha Pai (professor, Jawahar Nehru University): This is very unfair. The Constitution doesn’t give any such power to any person.
PDT Achary (ex-secretary general, Lok Sabha and constitution expert): She can’t. But if you see in a larger context, this is a new experiment in Indian democracy. Here, two leaders have emerged in a party and both are trying to take the control.
2. How can one person hijack a government and not be held to account? How does Sasikala get to take away all the MLAs?
Amanullah: MLAs are not children. And interestingly, none of them have complained of being taken as virtual prisoners. If the MLAs are willingly led by Sasikala and her followers, what can be done?
Pai: I would not call this a peculiar incident. For the past many years, this confinement of MLAs before trust vote has happened in many other states. This is nothing but the decline of parliamentary democracy.
Achary: This is certainly wrong. Such things have happened before. And in the whole exercise, only the luxury bus owners and the resort companies benefit.
3. Most members of the council of ministers are staying in the lodge. Who is looking after their departments? Aren’t ministers neglecting their duties?
Amanullah: Not necessarily. Ministers, even in normal circumstances go on tour. To say that there is negligence, we need to see how many files are pending.
Pai: Obviously they are neglecting their duties. They are accountable to people but they are not performing.
Achary: They should be certainly sitting in their offices and doing their work. A state can’t be run only by bureaucrats. Policy decisions, their implementation get hampered.
4.What does the Constitution/Supreme Court say on it?
Amanullah: The Constitution has left it to the governor to decide who should be given the chance to become the CM. He must act quickly.
Pai: SC doesn’t come into the picture now. Article 164 says governor should appoint the CM. We are not following conventions.
Achary: (Distinguished advocate) Soli Sorabjee said the governor should leave it to the house. But the governor can’t ask the MLAs to go straight to the house and pick their CM. The governor can call MLAs to Raj Bhavan, take a secret ballot to decide who they prefer as CM.
5. Saiskala is free to visit the MLAs but not the people who elected them. How and why? Where is Sasikala getting these powers from?
Amanullah: Panneerselvam is still the CM. If he has the entire administration and police force in command, why can’t he go and rescue the MLAs. May be, he is not sure if the MLAs are with him.
Pai: You can’t blame Sasikala. She is the elected general secretary of the party. The MLAs have sided with her.
Achary: This is a tragedy and a blatant use of power.
6. In this age and time, can we afford to have days of “no government”?
Amanullah: Tamil Nadu is in a state of paralysis. The bureaucracy is looking at the two power centres. This situation of uncertainty and paralysis is not good for the state.
Pai: The governor has not shown himself in good light. He should immediately end this crisis.
Achary: We can’t. It’s a large state and such uncertainly can’t be allowed. Ultimately, the governor must take a call.