Chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami won the trust vote in the Tamil Nadu assembly on Saturday after hours of ruckus, violence and two adjournments.
In the morning, all hell broke loose after the Speaker rejected the demand for a secret ballot by MLAs belonging to the O Panneerselvam camp, who were supported by the DMK, Congress and IUML. Chief minister Palaniswami had suffered a jolt on Friday after former state police chief and MLA R Nataraj switched sides to Panneerselvam’s camp. Early Saturday, another MLA, Arun Kumar, who was holed up at the Koovathur resort, escaped and said he will abstain from voting in the floor test.
Watch this space for live updates from Tamil Nadu on an action-packed Saturday:
6.00pm: Request Tamil Nadu governor to restore democratic values and order the assembly session to be postponed for conducting secret voting on confidence motion, wrote DMK’s Stalin in a letter to the governor.
5.45pm: Effigy of Tamil Nadu speaker Dhanpal burnt by DMK workers and Stalin’s supporters call for justice.
5.30pm: Tamil Nadu assembly speaker Dhanpal alleges he was attacked by DMK during Saturday’s session because he is from the Adi Dravidar community.
5.00pm: MK Stalin and other protesting DMK MLAs have been detained by police at Marina Beach.
4.08pm: DMK’s MK Stalin arrives at Marina Beach, to go on protest fast near Gandhi Statues along with evicted MLAs
There you go. Seems like we have another CM. Jai de-mockcrazy— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) February 18, 2017
4.06pm: We condemn the thrashing of MLAs; This is murder of democracy and can’t be accepted in any form, says DMK MP Tiruchi Siva
3.59pm: Palaniswami breaks down at Jayalalithaa memorial. All MLAs from his faction at the Marina memorial now
3.57pm: Reports say, Palaniswami leaves for Jayalalithaa memorial after winning trust vote
3.53pm: Panneerselvam: For three hours, DMK MLAs kept repeating their request to save democracy, now in absence of all of us the vote was passed. We doubt its validity
3.51pm: Jayalalithaa had removed a family, and that family has now captured the party, says O Panneerselvam
3.48pm: Pandiarajan, MLA loyal to Panneerselvam, says: “There were constant threats;abusive language was used. Things would’ve been different if the secret ballot was used
3.36pm: Panneerselvam: Amma’s government will return to Tamil Nadu
3.44pm: Panneerselvam: Those who have won today are from the Sasikala faction, we are the Amma faction
3.41pm: We tried making many suggestions, but the Speaker did not agree, says Panneerselvam after trust vote
3.23pm: Edappadi Palaniswami passes floor test with voice vote in special session of Tamil Nadu assembly. For 122 , against: 11
3.21pm: DMK working president MK Stalin reaches Raj Bhavan
3.14pm: Trust vote underway without opposition MLAs
3.11pm: Voting begins on chief minister Palaniswami’s vote of confidence
3.10pm: Congress MLAs stage walk out from Tamil Nadu Assembly
Even though I was manhandled and shirt was torn, I reconvened house. The house will function only acc to rules: P Dhanapal,TN Speaker pic.twitter.com/R3zabCJDAx— ANI (@ANI_news) February 18, 2017
3.08pm: Reports say, Tamil Nadu assembly reconvenes, all DMK MLAs evicted
3.01pm: DMK working president MK Stalin alleges that 500 marshals attacked the party legislators at 2.30 pm
3pm: Going to meet the governor and explain what happened, says Stalin
2.58pm: We were told that the assembly will reconvene at 3 pm, but at 2 pm the police came and tried to forcefully evict us.My shirt is also torn, says Stalin
2.57pm: Speaker tore off his shirt himself and blamed MLAs of the DMK. We reiterate our demand for a secret ballot, says Stalin
2.55pm: DMK MLAs begin leaving the Assembly in cars
2.52pm: Tamil Nadu governor cancels trip to Mumbai
2.48pm: Police have entered the assembly and are not letting it function, says DMK MLA TM Anbarasan
2.42pm: DMK working president MK Stalin evicted from Tamil Nadu assembly, say reports
2.34pm: So far, 20 DMK MLAs have been removed from the Tamil Nadu Assembly
2.33pm: DMK working president MK Stalin and remaining party MLAs inside the assembly sit on floor and begin dharna
2.14pm: DMK MLAs being forcibly evicted from the assembly. Two legislators who went outside not allowed back in
1.51pm: Chief secretary Girija Vaidyanathan seeks meeting with Speaker Dhanapal
1.38pm: Rapid Action Force troops on stand by outside assembly, ready to assist Speaker if DMK MLAs resist eviction again
1.30pm: Assembly security unable to evict DMK MLAs, Assembly adjourned again till 3pm
1.28pm: DMK MLAs to sit on dharna inside Tamil Nadu assembly premises.
1.23pm: DMK MLAs begin protests outside the Assembly after being evicted.
1.19pm: Tamil Nadu Speaker P Dhanapal orders assembly police to evict DMK MLAs.
1.15pm: Reports say 2,000 police personnel stationed outside of TN Assembly.
1.06pm: Assembly back in session.
1.03pm: Jaya TV shows Speaker Dhanapal being pushed around by MLAs before being escorted out by security.
12.52pm: Seven vans of police personnel stationed outside the Tamil Nadu assembly.
12.45pm: Reports say a House official has been taken out of the assembly on a stretcher.
12.38pm: Ambulance brought to Tamil Nadu assembly.
12.37pm: Meeting underway between chief minister Palaniswami and senior ministers.
12.29pm: DMK is a violent and anti-national party. Whatever she is, VK Sasikala is much better than the DMK, says BJP’s Subramanian Swamy.
12.19pm: DMK MLA Ku Ka Selvam sat on Speaker’s chair in protest.
Tamil Nadu assembly has been adjourned till 1 pm after uproar #floortest— ANI (@ANI_news) February 18, 2017
12.15pm: Reports say Speaker Dhanapal walks out of assembly
DMK protest in assembly: Table in front of Speaker's chair has been broken, . Microphones being thrown #floortest— ANI (@ANI_news) February 18, 2017
DMK MLA Poongothai Aladi Aruna climbs on bench and raises slogans demanding secret ballot #floortest— ANI (@ANI_news) February 18, 2017
12.10pm: Reports say chairs being broken, DMK MLAs climb Speaker’s table
12.07pm: DMK MLAs gherao Speaker Dhanapal, demand secret ballot.
12.06pm: Panneerselvam loyalist R Natarajan echoes DMK working president MK Stalin, says MLAs should be given time to meet people and know their views.
11.58am: Indian Union Muslim League too demands voting via secret ballot .
11.51am: Nobody can interfere in my decision on how to vote,says Tamil Nadu assembly Speaker Dhanapal
11.50am: Now, Congress MLAs too demand secret ballot
11.47am: MK Stalin demands that MLAs first go to their respective constituencies and then vote.
11.41am: I urge to go for a secret ballot, says Panneerselvam.
11.40am: Speaker P. Dhanapal rejects DMK’s request to postpone floor test.
11.39am: People’s voice should be heard and only then the floor test should be conducted in the assembly, says Panneerselvam.
11.38am: Everyone knows that MLAs were kept in (Golden Bay resort) Koovathur, says Panneerselvam.
11.36am: Democracy will be fulfilled only when secret ballot voting is done, says MK Stalin.
11.34am: DMK working president MK Stalin continues to disrupt session, says “Voting should be done on another day. Why the hurry when the Governor has given 15 days time?
11.29am: Division voting begins, in 6 blocks each consisting of 38 MLAs. First block raises hands in favour of Palaniswami.
11.26am: House strength reduced to 229 MLAs, including Speaker. Halfway mark now 115.
11.25am: All doors shut in Tamil Nadu assembly premises.
11.24am: Speaker Dhanapal calls for order. Division vote begins amid continued uproar.
11.20am: Speaker rejects suggestion that voting should be conducted via secret ballot. Uproar in Assembly continues.
11.16am: Speaker Dhanapal guarantees protection for AIADMK MLAs inside the Assembly.
11.15am: Confidence motion moved by Palaniswami accepted by Speaker. Now to decide whether it will be an open or secret ballot.
Arguments break out between media persons and Police after Police denies media entry into TN assembly premises pic.twitter.com/2DfVmoyXHy— ANI (@ANI_news) February 18, 2017
11.12am: AIADMK MLAs (Palaniswami supporters ) raise slogans against the DMK in assembly.
11.11am: MLAs are being brought to the Secretariat like prisoners, says DMK working president MK Stalin.
11.10am: DMK wants Panneerselvam faction leader to speak in the House.
11.08am: Palaniswami moves trust vote, ruckus breaks out, say reports.
11.02am: Panneerselvam allotted third row in the House, say reports.
10.56am: Tamil Nadu governor has forwarded O Panneerselvam’s request for a secret ballot to the Speaker for consideration
10.55am: E Madhusudhanan, removed as AIADMK presidium chairman, submits formal nomination of Semmalai as party whip to floor Speaker
10.54am: O Panneerselvam arrives at Tamil Nadu assembly with two other MLAs
DMK Working President MK Stalin walked to the Tamil Nadu assembly in protest alleging his car was searched at the entrance pic.twitter.com/foDN4pXL73— ANI (@ANI_news) February 18, 2017
10.38am: Coimbatore North MLA Arun Kumar, who escaped from the Golden Bay resort and will skip the trust vote, told IANS: “Considering the people’s mandate, I decided to abstain from voting and not support chief minister Edapadi Palanisamy. Ideology is more important to me than money and power.”
10.17am: Congress whip and MLA Vijayadharani arrives at assembly.
10.13am: 11 MLAs belonging to the Panneerselvam faction reach assembly
10.07am: All AIADMK MLAs from Golden Bay resort reach assembly premises.
10.07am: Congress MLAs reach Tamil Nadu assembly for the trust vote.
10.04am: The governor should have brought in President’s rule for at least 2-3 months so that normalcy could prevail and the MLAs were free, not under threat, says BV Acharya, special public prosecutor in the Sasikala DA case.
10.03am: Congress issues whip, tells MLAs have been to vote against governor’s motion in the Tamil Nadu assembly. The party has 8 legislators.
9.58am: BV Acharya, says, “You can’t say it is a vote exercised by them (MLAs who stayed in resort) out of their free will.
9.55am: DMK working president MK Stalin reaches assembly to attend special session on trust vote.
9.41am: DMK working president MK Stalin leaves for assembly.
9.33am: Halfway mark in Tamil Nadu assembly down to 115 from 117 as 2 MLAs will skip the trust vote: AIADMK’s Arun Kumar, who escaped from the Golden Bay resort, won’t vote, while DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, who has been unwell, will also give the vote a miss.
A historic day in the Dharma Yudh - confidence motion in TN Assembly - trust voice of conscience & voice of Amma's soul dominate decisions !— Pandiarajan K (@mafoikprajan) February 18, 2017
9:09am: Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palaniswami reaches the secretariat.
Amma's legacy rests on abled shlders of OPS, this will be driving force to vote,not temporary confinement of brainwashing: M Pandiarajan pic.twitter.com/Blk9PxYdC5— ANI (@ANI_news) February 18, 2017
9:07am: “We don’t think we are in single digit. We believe 135 people should vote for us,” M Pandiarajan, former minister and OPS supporter, tells ANI.
9:00am: Panneerselvam likely to visit late CM J Jayalalithaa’s memorial on Marina beach in Chennai before reaching the assembly for the crucial floor test.
8:50am: “I listened to the people’s voice and came out of resort. We were free there, but came out of my own free will,” Arun Kumar, the AIADMK MLA who escaped from the resort, says.
8:10am: MLAs being taken to assembly in 31 cars, with police giving the convoy protection. Trust vote is scheduled for 11 am. “We will win,” the MLAs say in unison.
8:08am: AIADMK MLAs start for the assembly from Kuvathur’s Golden Bay Resort amid heavy police presence. The Palaniswami camp is confident of winning the trust vote.
7:50am: The Palaniswami camp loses one more MLA. The strength of his camp comes down to 122. The OPS (Panneerselvam) camp sure of more MLAs revolting. Arun Kumar escaped from the Kovathur resort and will abstain from voting.
How close can the trust vote really get? Can Panneerselvam overthrow the government? HT breaks down the numbers:
- Strength of TN assembly: 234
- Former CM J Jayalalithaa’s seat is vacant. Opposition DMK chief M Karunanidhi is ailing and won’t be present. Speaker Dhanpal cannot vote unless there’s a tie.
- So, effective strength of assembly during trust vote: 231
- Majority mark: 116
- Palaniswami camp strength: 123
- Panneerselvam camp strength: 11
- Opposition: 97
- Panneerselvam has been buoyed by the opposition DMK grouping – DMK, Congress and Indian Union Muslim League – deciding to vote against the government.
Scenario 1: Palaniswami wins
Palaniswami holds on to his 123 MLAs and sails past the mark of 116. The total votes against him – 97+11= 108 – won’t be enough to knock his government off.
Scenario 2: Palaniswami loses
The chief minister can lose if eight of his MLAs switch sides. Then his strength comes down to 115, one less than the majority. The opposition’s strength becomes -- 97+ 11+ 8 = 116. The governor doesn’t need to vote.
Sasikala — a long-time confidante of former AIADMK supremo and late chief minister J Jayalalithaa — had been anointed the late leader’s successor by the ruling party and was due to be sworn in last week.
But she was pulled into a bruising power struggle by Panneerselvam, who alleged he was forced to resign. Since then, he has been backed by several MPs and MLAs who have switched sides but a majority of the party lawmakers is said to be behind Sasikala, who was sent behind the bars by the Supreme Court in the 21-year-old DA case.
Before surrendering in a Bengaluru prison earlier this week, Sasikala appointed Palaniswami the legislature party leader, and the governor later invited him to form the government. Rao 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 for nine days were getting anxious.
But now, analysts warn there is a real possibility of Palaniswami losing the vote and going down in history as the CM with the shortest tenure in the state – just three days.
The bitterness between the warring AIADMK camps was apparent in a string of tit-for-tat sackings throughout Friday. Panneerselvam loyalist E Madhusudanan expelled Sasikala, her nephews TTV Dinakaran and S Venktatesh and all the ministers of the new government, claiming that their camp was the real AIADMK.
Late in the evening, the election commission sent a notice to Sasikala on a petition by Panneerselvam’s camp challenging her elevation as interim party chief last month. Panneerselvam also met the assembly speaker P Dhanpal and urged him to conduct a secret ballot that will enable MLAs to vote according to their conscience but was turned down.
The Sasikala faction also appointed senior minister KA Sengottiyan as the floor leader for the party.