CHENNAI?PUDUCHERRY: Seeking to assert his authority, sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran today axed four ministers from party posts while 18 MLAs loyal to him stayed put in a Puducherry resort, a day after they revolted against the K Palaniswami government threatening its survival.
The Congress, meanwhile, pitched for a floor test in the assembly, a day after its ally DMK made a similar demand, claiming 22 AIADMK MLAs had submitted letters to Governor Ch Vidayasagar Rao expressing lack of confidence in Chief Minister E K Palaniswami.
In the 234-member assembly, the AIADMK has 134 MLAs.
Rallying behind jailed party chief V K Sasikala, her brother Divakaran claimed the Palaniswami ministry had "lost majority" and sought his resignation.
"Such a government cannot continue. Palaniswami has to resign," he told reporters at Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district.
Divakaran had yesterday suggested the name of assembly Speaker P Dhanapal, a Dalit, to replace Palaniswami.
Both Palaniswami and Panneerselvam seemed undeterred by the developments. They are attending the centenary celebrations of AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran in Ariyalur.
A day after meeting the Governor, the MLAs supporting the combative Dhinakaran, stayed put at a private resort in neighbouring Puducherry. They largely remained indoors.
A few of them, including Andipatti MLA Thangatamilselvan, went out for morning walk at the beach there.
Police personnel have been deployed outside the resort and media was not allowed to enter the premises.
The local wing of the unified AIADMK burned effigies of Dhinakaran, nephew of Sasikala, near the resort and raised slogans against them.
In a bid to assert his authority, Dhinakaran "relieved" four ministers -- RB Uthayakumar, KC Veeramani, MR Vijayabaskar and R Kamaraj -- of party posts.
Revenue Minister Uthayakumar was removed as Secretary of the Puratchi Thalaivi Amma Peravai, while Vijayabaskar (Transport) was eased out as the party's Karur district secretary.
He was replaced by former transport minister and Dhinakaran loyalist MLA, V Senthil Balaji.
Dhinakaran relieved ministers for commercial taxes and food, Veeramani and Kamaraj, of the posts of district secretaries of Vellore (West) and Thiruvarur, respectively.
In separate statements, Dhinakaran announced the appointments of his aides to these posts.
He also relieved the district secretaries of Chennai (South), Kancheepuram, Thiruvallore (West) and Pudukottai of their duties.
In the Dravidian parties' hierarchy, district secretaries play a key role in the organisational growth.
He also appointed a number of his supporters to various others posts including that of the organisation secretary, besides expanding the office-bearers list.
The appointments were made with the "approval" of Sasikala, Dhinakaran said.
A few weeks ago also, Dhinakaran had appointed his supporters to various party posts.
The latest shake-up by Dhinakaran comes two days after the merger of the factions led by Palaniswami and rebel leader O Panneerselvam, a former chief minister.
Under the arrangement, Panneerselvam was made deputy chief minister and the coordinator of the party. Palaniswami was named co-coordinator.
It was also agreed that steps would be taken to expel Sasikala, which was a pre-condition for the merger.
In the wake of differences in the ruling party, the DMK has demanded a floor test in the assembly to prove that the government was in a majority.
At Puducherry, former MLA Om Sakthi Segar led the protest against Sasikala and Dhinakaran.
Segar handed over a petition to the district collector and SP asking them to instruct the MLAs to vacate the resort in the "larger interest of law and order".
He alleged the Congress-led Puducherry government was trying to engineer a split in the AIADMK by letting the MLAs stay at the resort.