Trust vote won but Palaniswami govt in Tamil Nadu faces trust deficit

Updated on Feb 19, 2017 12:21 PM IST
Political observers doubt the legitimacy and longevity of the Palaniswami govt in Tamil Nadu.
Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami after taking the oath of secrecy administered by governor CH Vidyasagar Rao during the swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan in Chennai.(HT Photo)
Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami after taking the oath of secrecy administered by governor CH Vidyasagar Rao during the swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan in Chennai.(HT Photo)
Hindustan Times | By

Jailed AIADMK chief VK Sasikala’s proxy Edapaddi Palaniswami may have won the trust vote in Tamil Nadu but his government’s legitimacy and longevity is in doubt, political observers say.

Picked as the CM candidate after Sasikala’s march to the top job was cut short by the Supreme Court which found her guilty in a corruption case, Palaniswami is legally on a sound footing but faces a trust deficit and a crisis of credibility.

The ugly scenes in the state assembly on Sunday and the days of political drama before it have done little to inspire confidence among the people of Tamil Nadu.

“For how long the government stays stable, it remains to be seen,” political analyst Sumanth C Raman told HT.

The Sasikala camp, for now, has managed to keep its flock together.

“Legally, it (the government) is going to stand. It has got 122 votes and no one has disputed the number. It is legally right but not morally,” he said.

In 234-member Tamil Nadu House, 118 is the majority mark.

The government would have had more legitimacy if the Opposition was not thrown out of the House during the trust vote, which was shrouded in secrecy. Media was not allowed to watch the proceedings and even the audio feed, as is the practice in the southern state, was not available.

“Even before the trust vote, the Edapaddi government had little credibility. The presence of Opposition would have given more legitimacy to the trust vote,” said Prof Ramu Manivannan of Madras University.

All the 88 DMK members were evicted while eight of the Congress and one of the IUML walked out.

Edapaddi, in fact, should thank rival O Panneerselvam for staying on and voting.

“Had OPS (Panneerselvam) walked out and ensured that the entire Opposition stayed out and the verdict was 122-0, the message would have been far more damaging,” Manivannan said.

Panneerselvam, who rose in revolt against Sasikala, could have formed a larger political alliance. “But then, his mentors have told him what to do but not how to do,” said Manivannan.

Opinion is divided over the future of Panneerselvam, who turned a hero in public eye for his opposition to Sasikala taking over the government and the party after chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5.

He has a tough job at hand -- to turn public support into a potent political force.

“It will depend on him, how best can he salvage the situation with the public support but we also have to see how long this support lasts,” Raman said.

But, all is not lost for the former caretaker chief minister. The election commission is looking into complaints against Sasikala’s election as the AIADMK general secretary.

If the order goes against Sasikala, all party appointments made by her would be scrapped. It will give a big boost to the Panneerselvam faction in the party.

As far as the government goes, said Raman, its initial days would be of an uneasy stability.

It would be a big achievement if the government would last for more than two years, said Manivannan, adding Tamil Nadu could face elections sooner than 2021, when the term of the current assembly ends.


    KV Lakshmana is the Tamil Nadu bureau chief of Hindustan Times. He covers social, economic and political changes in the state and neighbourhood.

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