Dhinakaran faction claims TN Assembly speaker’s decision on suspending MLAs “patently illegal”, will move Madras HC

In a move that would help the embattled Edappadi Palaniswami-led AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu heave a collective sigh of relief, 18 rebel MLAs who are loyal to the sidelined party deputy general secretary TTV Dhinakaran, were disqualified from their membership of the state Assembly on Monday.

The decision of the Tamil Nadu Assembly speaker comes just two days before a deadline set by the Madras High Court for Palaniswami to face a floor test was to expire. The decision by TN Assembly speaker P Dhanpal brings down the simple majority mark in the 234-member House to 110 as against 117 (if the rebels had not been disqualified) in the event of a floor test.

The Palaniswami government – a reunion of the chief minister’s camp and legislators loyal to deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam – claims to have support of 114 AIADMK MLAs. These MLAs had recently attended a general council meeting that ousted jailed party general secretary VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran from all party posts.

The Dhinakaran camp, which has been sequestered at a resort in Karnataka’s Coorg, has challenged the Assembly Speaker’s decision, calling it “patently illegal” and moved the Madras High Court against it. The Dhinakaran-18 claim that the decision was taken expressly to prevent them from voting against the Palaniswami government in the floor test that they along with the party’s political arch rival – M Karunanidhi’s DMK – have threatened to bring against the ruling party.

P Vetrivel, a senior MLA and Dhinakaran aide was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying: “The speaker has done this disqualification so that the government wins the floor test. The decision is unfair as well as illegal as 19 MLAs had given in writing to the (Tamil Nadu) Governor (Vidyasagar Rao) that they had lost faith in EPS as the chief minister.”

The Madras High Court, which is hearing two petitions filed by Dhinakaran camp and the DMK challenging the tenability of the Palaniswami government, had recently ordered that no floor test in the TN Assembly will take place before Wednesday (September 20).

The DMK, which also challenged the disqualification of the rebel MLAs on Monday, said that the party had moved “the high court asking for a direction on holding floor test as we had reports that the government would disqualify the MLAs at 10 am and hold the floor test at 10.30 am so that no time would be given for challenging this (decision in a court).”