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Palaniswami wins floor test amid din in House; Stalin, Panneerselvam cry foul

Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palaniswami comfortably won a dramatic trust vote on Saturday amid chaos after the speaker threw out opposition DMK members for violence and Congress legislators walked out.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2017 00:04 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times
Palaniswami,Sasikala,Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palaniswami being sworn-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan in Chennai on Thursday. (HT Photo)

Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palaniswami comfortably won a dramatic trust vote on Saturday amid chaos after the speaker threw out opposition DMK members for violence and Congress legislators walked out.

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 unprecedented eviction of the 88 DMK legislators and the secrecy surrounding the special session are likely to take the sheen off Paliniswami’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 ofrevolting 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.

The current crisis erupted about two weeks ago when in a late-night dramatic revolt, Panneerselvam alleged Sasikala – anointed to succeed Jayalalithaa as CM –forced him to resign from the state’s top post.

But despite Palaniswami winning the trust vote handily, the political thriller that has transfixed the nation for weeks showed no signs of ending.

Minutes after he was carried out by marshals, DMK working president MK Stalin rushed to governor C Vidyasagar Rao to complain about the speaker’s actions and Panneeerselvam’s camp dubbed the floor test “undemocratic”. Stalin later sat on a protest dharna at Marina Beach, ringed by party members.

But Dhanapal – whose shirt was torn in the melee and who had to be rescued by marshals – hit back, saying DMK members misbehaved with him as he is from the Adi Dravid (Dalit) community.

By afternoon when results of the trust vote were declared, news poured in of protests in various districts against the chief minister and Sasikala, indicating that Palaniswami had a long way to go before gaining political stability.

Palaniswami, 62, was propped up as chief minister by Sasikala after the Supreme Court sent her to jail on Tuesday in a 20-year-old corruption case. Panneerselvam, with barely a handful of legislators in his camp, however, found support from the DMK, the Congress and the All India Muslim League.

The day had begun on a hopeful note for Panneerselvam as hours before the vote, a legislator said he “escaped” from a resort 120-odd AIADMK lawmakers were corralled for 10 days to join the former CM.

Buoyed by the defection, the Panneerselvam camp and DMK pushed for a secret ballot in the hope that fence-sitters in the Palaniswami camp would switch sides. But Dhanapa, rejected the demand outright and when the MLAs tried to lecture him, he said “I know the rules and regulations. Don’t teach me how to run the house.”

As if on cue, the entire DMK contingent trooped into the well of the House and created a ruckus, seemingly with an intention to force adjournments and delay the floor test.

The opposition party’s aggression appeared a last-minute change of strategy as legislators broke tables, threw sheaves of paper at the speaker’s podium, pulled out his mike and sat on his chair. Dhanapal himself being was pulled by an MLA in a scuffle that left his shirt torn.

Two MLAs Kuka Selvam and Ranganathan sat on the speaker’s chair. Another MLA held a chair and was threatening to hurl it across. “Vendum, vendum, rahasyamaga vakku allikka vendum (wanted, wanted, secret voting wanted)” slogans rent the air as DMK members thronged the well and surrounded the speaker Dhanpal, forcing him to adjourn the session the first time.

When the house reconvened at 1pm, DMK members ringed the speaker with vociferous slogans to press for secret balloting. But this time around, the speaker was surrounded by white-uniformed marshals and ordered the eviction of all DMK lawmakers after a warning. Stalin and his party leader Durai Murugan were among first of the MLAs to be evicted.

When the house met again at 3pm, it was clear that the numbers were heavily stacked in favour of Palaniswami and Panneerselvam’s hopes of inducing cross-voting and defections would fail. And the CM sailed through, with the score line reading: For : 122 and Against: 11.

Read: Palaniswami wins trust vote: Here’s how parties played their cards

First Published: Feb 18, 2017 22:12 IST