Disqualified AIADMK legislators who support TTV Dhinakar at Tirunelveli
The Madras High Court today upheld the disqualification of 18 lawmakers loyal to ousted party leader VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran. Last year, the assembly Speaker had disqualified the lawmakers invoking the anti-defection law after they wrote to the governor seeking the removal of Chief Minister E Palaniswami or EPS.
Had the court cancelled their disqualification, the state government would have lost its majority in the assembly even though the 18 lawmakers would also lose their seats.
Now with the lawmakers disqualified, there will be by-elections for 18 seats, along with two more that have been vacant since the death of members.
The high court had given a split verdict in June, after which the Supreme Court had appointed a third judge, Justice Sathyanarayana, to give his orders.
For the disqualified lawmakers, it meant another resort break as their leader Dhinakaran put them up at a property in Courtrallam, 600 km from capital Chennai. They were seen in photos taking a dip in a river considered holy in the state.
There is also a possibility of TTV Dhinakaran arm-twisting Chief Minister EPS and his deputy O Panneerselvam or OPS to take control of the government and the AIADMK
There was speculation that more ruling party legislators could switch their allegiance to the rebel camp, bringing down the government, if the court cancelled the disqualification of the 18 lawmakers.
With 20 vacant seats, the Tamil Nadu assembly's strength is down from 234 to 214. The ruling party, with 116 members, is well above the half-way mark of 107.
VK Sasikala was jailed for corruption just as she was about to become chief minister after J Jayalalithaa's death
Last year, the AIADMK, then under Ms Sasikala and Mr Dhinakaran, had moved all the party's legislators to another tourist resort outside Chennai to guard them from then chief minister OPS, who had rebelled against Ms Sasikala's dominance. After Ms Sasikala was jailed, EPS and OPS buried their differences and removed her.
Ms Sasikala, a long-time aide of AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa, took control of the party after her death in December 2016 and was about to take charge as chief minister when she was jailed for corruption. She was removed as AIADMK chief but continued to control the dissident group from jail, along with her nephew, who won the RK Nagar seat of Ms Jayalalithaa in by-polls a year ago.