The DMK has said E Palaniswami must be asked to prove he still has majority support.
Chennai: The Madras High Court today continued its stay on a floor test in the Tamil Nadu Assembly after hearing a hearing 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 case gas been adjourned to next Monday. Today, the High Court also ordered Speaker P Dhanapal to respond by October 12, to opposition party DMK's demand for action against 11 legislators of the ruling party who had voted against chief minister E Palaniswami in a trust vote earlier this year as part of the rebel camp of O Panneerselvam. The two factions of the AIADMK have since reunited.
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The High Court has asked Mr Dhanapal to explain why the 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.
The court had last month refused to stay the Speaker's order disqualifying the 18 MLAs, but had said no trust vote should be held till its next order in the case. It had also directed that the seats of the disqualified legislators be kept vacant till then.
The disqualification meant that Chief Minister Palaniswami 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, 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.
The rebels have told the court today that they did not intend to bring down the AIADMK government in the state and that they only want E Palaniswami to be removed as Chief Minister.
Ms Sasikala, who was a longtime companion of J Jayalalithaa and took control of the AIADMK after her death in December, also wanted to be Chief Minister and had forced O Panneerselvam to step down from the post. But she was convicted in the corruption case before she could take over and ensured that her loyalist E Palaniswami was appointed instead.
Mr Panneerselvam rebelled and his loyalists and he voted against Mr Palaniswami in the trust vote that followed, 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.
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. He said today that he is confident the High Court will rule in favour of his camp.
A key demand of the OPS camp for the merger with Chief Minister Palaniswami's faction was 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.
The Sasikala camp has rejected these changes. They met the state's Governor last month and said they were withdrawing support to Mr Palaniswami and demanded his resignation. The DMK has said Mr Palaniswami must be asked to prove he still has majority support.