CHENNAI: As the news of the high court’s verdict broke on Thursday, the State assembly was in session. It was as Sirkazhi MLA Bharathi was speaking during the debate, that school education minister K A Sengottaian stepped into the Assembly hall showing a ‘thumbs up’ towards Treasury Benches indicating a favourable verdict. Ruling party MLAs expressed their happiness by thumping on desks. However, the euphoria soon disappeared after they learnt that the second judge had given a different view.
These few moments in Assembly on Thursday show how fluid the political landscape of Tamil Nadu remains. The AIADMK currently has 113 MLAs, excluding the Speaker, in a house of 216 (18 disqualified MLAs). Of these, three have been vocal in their support to rebel leader and RK Nagar MLA TTV Dhinakaran. However, in case of a floor vote, if a whip is issued, they must fall in line.
If the third judge upholds the disqualification of the 18 MLAs, then, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami will continue to enjoy majority in the House of 216. The elections for these 18 seats should be conducted within six months, a Constitutional mandate. The ruling AIADMK should win at least four of these 18 seats to reach the halfway mark of 117 in the House of 234 and assuming the Speaker will cast his vote in favour of AIADMK in case of a tie in a floor test. But until polls, the government may not have much trouble.
In case the third judge rules against the disqualification of the 18 MLAs, then with just 113 MLAs on his side, Palaniswami may not enjoy a majority in the House. He needs to win over at least four MLAs from among the ‘disqualified’ 18 and the three AIADMK allies, who have been vocal in their opposition to the ruling regime. This has to be done before Palaniswami will be forced to take a floor test.
In either case, it appears that DMK’s ambition to capture power may remain a dream. Even if the third judge upholds the disqualification and the DMK wins all 18 seats in the subsequent polls, the party would still only have 107 MLAs. Even with the support of ally Congress (eight MLAs) and IUML (one MLA), the party would have only 116 MLAs, just short of two for a majority in the house of 234.