AIADMK factions led by O Panneerselvam (left) and E Palaniswami came together in August
The Madras High Court today adjourned to November 2 a petition challenging the Tamil Nadu Speaker's decision last month to disqualify 18 legislators of the ruling AIADMK loyal to VK Sasikala, who has been evicted by the party as its chief. The court had last month refused to stay Speaker P Dhanapal's order, but said the seats of the disqualified legislators should be kept vacant and no floor test must be held till it decides on the petition.
- The High Court has directed both sides to submit documents before October 23. It was also hearing a petition from DMK leader MK Stalin, who has requested the judges to direct the state governor and the speaker to order Chief Minister Palaniswami to face a trust vote, contending that he has lost majority support in the assembly with 18 of his party's lawmakers rebelling against him.
- The rebels have said do not intend to bring down the AIADMK government in the state, but want E Palaniswami to be removed as chief minister for what they call a betrayal of VK Sasikala and have also met the Governor to demand his resignation.
- Speaker Dhanapal had last month disqualified the 18 MLAs for defying the party. It meant that Chief Minister Palaniswami or EPS would find it easier to win a trust vote if he had to prove majority in the 234-member assembly, as the votes required to reach the halfway mark would come down.
- If the court re-instates the 18 rebels later, Mr Palaniswami will have to prove he has the support of 117 legislators in a trust vote. The AIADMK has a total 134 MLAs, including the pro-Sasikala rebels. Without their support, the chief minister is down to 113, four short of majority.
- If the court upholds the disqualification, the strength of the house will come down to 214 and Chief Minister Palaniswami will only need the support of half that number or 108 MLAs to win.
- At the last hearing, the High Court also asked Speaker Dhanapal to explain by October 12 why 11 MLAs of what was called the O Panneerselvam or OPS camp should not be disqualified the way he has the 18 MLAs who have now rebelled against the chief minister.
- Mr Panneerselvam had rebelled in February after VK Sasikala forced him to quit as chief minister, and his loyalists and he voted against Mr Palaniswami in a trust vote then, a process that ended in chaos and controversy with the Speaker evicting all the DMK's 88 legislators from the assembly and declaring that Mr Palaniswami had won the vote.
- EPS was chosen to be chief minister in place of OPS by Ms Sasikala after her own bid for the top post was crushed when the Supreme Court convicted her for corruption. Ms Sasikala, a longtime companion of J Jayalalithaa, took control of the AIADMK after her death in December and had also wanted to be chief minister.
- The EPS and OPS factions came together again in August based on several key demands made by the latter, including the removal from the party of Ms Sasikala and Mr Dhinakaran. O Pannerselvam is now Tamil Nadu's Deputy Chief Minister and chief coordinator of the AIADMK's steering committee, the party's new top post.
- Ms Sasikala's nephew TTV Dhinakaran, who she appointed as the AIADMK's deputy general secretary before she was imprisoned, is now leading the rebellion against Mr Palaniswami. Ms Sasikala is currently in Chennai on a five-day parole to meet her husband, who is critically ill.
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