- DMK's MK Stalin says party will vote against E Palaniswami's government
- Palaniswami was sworn into office yesterday after 10-day political tussle
- Palaniswami faces difficult trust vote with just six votes to spare
Mr Palaniswami will need to demonstrate on the floor of the 234-member House, the support of at least half or 117 legislators. He has with him 123 of the ruling AIADMK's 134 MLAs, excluding the Speaker, which is a slim six more than the majority mark.
His chief rival and AIADMK alum, O Panneerselvam, who resigned as Chief Minister last week, has the support of 11 party legislators and has alleged that at least 10 MLAs in the Palaniswami or Sasikala Camp have been secretly in touch with him.
The DMK has 89 legislators, but party chief M Karunanidhi, 92, is unwell and may not attend tomorrow's trust vote. The Congress, which has eight MLAs, has said it is waiting for its central leadership to decide which way it will vote but has indicated that it will not back Mr Palaniswami as has the Indian Union of Muslim League or IUML which has one member.
Both Mr Panneerselvam and Mr Stalin, who is Leader of Opposition, have demanded that voting on the motion tomorrow is through a secret ballot. In a series of tweets Mr Panneerselvam or OPS invoked J Jayalalithaa, the powerful matriarch of the AIADMK who died in December. "I reiterate to AIADMK MLAs, please think wisely before casting your vote tomorrow. Don't buckle under pressure... Please vote against the trust vote and safeguard the interests of Amma," he said.
Mr Panneerselvam, who says he was forced to resign as chief minister last week, too had staked claim to the top post but could not gather enough support. That is because, he alleges, most of the party's MLAs were whisked away by Ms Sasikala to a five-star resort 80 km from Chennai and were held there for over a week "against their will" to prevent defections.
They left the resort only yesterday to attend Mr Palaniswami's oath ceremony, but not all were reportedly spotted there. After the function, they were back at the resort and will leave straight from there for the Assembly tomorrow.
The new chief minister, wary of losing any more of his supporters to the rival camp, skipped his first day in office and headed instead to the resort to keep his flock together.
For his rebellion, Mr Panneerselvam has been expelled by Ms Sasikala from the party, but he calls that order invalid. His camp "expelled" a number of leaders from the other side, including the new Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues, and have challenged the appointment of Ms Sasikala as the party's interim general secretary in December. The Election Commission has asked her to explain her appointment by the end of the month.
Ms Sasikala is at a Bengaluru jail to serve a four-year term after the Supreme Court convicted her on Tuesday, crushing her bid to take over as Chief Minister.