Sasikala follower Palaniswami wins trust vote in TN assembly

CHENNAI: The Edappadi K Palaniswami government in Tamil Nadu on Saturday won the trust vote with 122 MLAs favouring him, after the assembly witnessed chaos and eviction of 89 legislators who went on a rampage demanding secret ballot.

Rebel AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam got 11 votes.

Palaniswami won the confidence vote in the assembly where only AIADMK legislators -MLAs supporting party general secretary V K Sasikala and former chief minister O Panneerselvam – were present.

There were no opposition legislators with DMK (88) and IUML (1) MLAs having been evicted and their ally Congress members walking out in protest.

The House that assembled at 11am witnessed two adjournments after Speaker P Dhanapal said he would hold division vote. The opposition parties and the rebel AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam’s side insisted on holding secret ballot.

DMK members gheraoed the Speaker. Chairs were flung, assembly notes torn, tables turned over and Dhanapal’s microphone was broken as the DMK went on a rampage mode.

Dhanapal had to be escorted out by the marshals as the opposition started pushing him around. The session was adjourned first till 1pm.

When it reconvened, Dhanapal expressed regret at how he had been humiliated. “My shirt was torn,” he said, before proceeding to evict 88 DMK MLAs from the assembly for the unruly behaviour earlier.

Subsequently, Palaniswami was allowed to move the vote of confidence motion in the floor. However, the DMK MLAs were in no mood to obey and pushed around the watch and ward staff. With chaos not subsiding, Dhanapal adjourned the session till 3pm.

When the House reassembled again after the second adjournment, it passed the confidence motion in division vote.

Earlier, when the session started, AIADMK’s rebel MLA S Semmalai was first given the opportunity to speak. Semmalai, who is in the O Panneerselvam faction, produced a key and told the House that it belonged to the room at a resort in Koovathur where he had been kept “captive.”

Panneerselvam, who made his entry into the floor by greeting all members with folded hands, was allotted seat number 82 – third row from the front where Palaniswami sat along with other senior ministers.

Opposition leader M K Stalin said he and deputy leader Duraimurugan were forced to walk to the Fort St George complex from the War Memorial, as their cars were stopped by police in the morning. Stalin said that this was a breach of privilege issue and the Speaker should act on it as he is the custodian of all House members.

When Panneerselvam spoke, he said that it was not in the best interests of the citizens to convene the House less than 48 hours after the MLAs were “allowed to leave” the Koovathur resort. He requested the Speaker to postpone the confidence vote to a later date so that the MLAs could return to their constituencies.

DMK members and Panneerselvam’s rebels wanted speaker Dhanapal to hold the confidence vote on a later date and to conduct a secret ballot to prove majority. However, the Speaker denied their request stating that he held the powers to determine when and how the confidence vote proceedings would happen.

DMK’s J Anbazhagan criticised the urgency of the confidence vote and said that a “benami” government of VK Sasikala was in power in Tamil Nadu. Panneerselvam repeated that MLAs had been held “captive” at the Golden Bay Resorts in Koovathur while former school education minister K Pandiarajan said that he received a phone call in which the caller threatened to throw acid at him, if he did not “stop interfering” in affairs.

Surprisingly, none of the above statements brought out a reaction from Edappadi Palaniswami or any of his senior ministers. Palaniswami did not even get up from his seat even as the DMK MLAs initiated ruckus by tearing the assembly notes. Papers thrown across the floor landed on Palaniswami’s lap but he merely brushed it away.

Soon, things got out of hand for the Speaker as the DMK MLAs rushed to the well of the House. Poongothai Aladi Aruna stood up on the bench and argued with Dhanapal.

Trouble started as the DMK took offence to assembly secretary AMP Jamaludeen constantly being in the speaker’s ears even as they raised objections to the confidence vote. Jamaludeen, who was wearing a neck brace, was stuck in the melee while the DMK turned his table over.

While his MLAs went awry, Stalin and Duraimurugan did nothing but sat and watched the situation escalate. Panneerselvam’s rebels, the Congress, IUML and the ruling party, including the chief minister, remained on their seats as the DMK MLAs took charge.

Villivakkam MLA B Ranganathan and Thousand Lights MLA Ku Ka Selvam even sat on the Speaker’s chair, which was reminiscent of the ruckus in the assembly in 1988 post-MGR’s death.

The Speaker met with opposition parties in his chamber after the first adjournment. However, as he chose to evict the DMK members, the opposition started a sit-in protest blocking the assembly doors leading to the floor.

The traffic police blocked all vehicles leading to the Fort St George complex on Rajaji Salai after the second adjournment.

Meanwhile, Golden Bay Resorts in Koovathur announced that they were shutting down the resort complex for “maintenance.