CHENNAI: In what was billed as a show of strength ahead of the September 12 general council meeting, the ruling faction headed by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Tuesday proved he had the biggest bunch of lawmakers on his side — 112 out of 134 (minus the Speaker).
With the halfway mark for the government to enjoy a simple majority at 117, the ruling side also claimed that nine legislators, currently in the rebel TTV Dhinakaran camp, had telephonically conveyed their support to Palaniswami.
Another index of Palaniswami’s strength was the headcount of district secretaries at the meeting. Of the 50 district secretaries, 46 attended; the remaining four are known loyalists of Dhinakaran. The meeting adopted two resolutions. One said the MLAs had reposed full faith in Palaniswami, accepted his leadership, and had wholeheartedly agreed with all decisions taken by him. The second resolution vowed to protect the party and the government built by the hard work of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
Tuesday’s meeting was in contrast to the MLAs meeting on August 28, which around 35 legislators chose to skip. It gave Dhinakaran bragging rights on his support base. Adding a touch of swagger, he claimed he had more ‘sleeper cell’ MLAs with him. Palaniswami immediately started meeting MLAs from many districts, particularly those who were absent the other day, and heard them out. The homework he did produced results on Tuesday, with 111 MLAs signing the register at the party headquarters.
The TTV group though was not convinced about nine defections from its bloc, daring the ruling faction to name them. They also claimed that Tuesday’s meeting had actually proved Palaniswami had lost majority support in the State Assembly.
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After the meeting, Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said 111 MLAs had signed the party register and one MLA from Peravurani constituency, M Govindarajan, could not attend due to illness. However, he had conveyed his support to Palaniswami. Later, AIADMK headquarters office bearers said Speaker P Dhanapal would also extend support to Palaniswami.
All three AIADMK allies - U Thaniyarasu, Thameemun Ansari and S Karunas - were not on the same page. When contacted, Thaniyarasu confirmed his support to Palaniswami. Thameemun Ansari told Express that the Chief Minister invited him for the meeting, but his party’s executive committee was against him attending the meeting. “At a time when the State is losing its rights one by one, our stand will be in tune with the pulse of the people. So, at this juncture, Jananayaka Manithaneya Makkal Katchi will not support any faction of the AIADMK.” Actor S Karunas, a staunch supporter of V K Sasikala, could not be reached for his comment.
Addressing the meeting, the Chief Minister recalled the history of AIADMK and how M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa had worked for the growth of the party. He urged all participants to bring the grassroots level functionaries and others to the general council meeting without fail.Reacting to the meeting, DMK working president M K Stalin said, “Today’s meeting has proved that Palaniswami has lost majority support. The Governor should immediately convene the Assembly and direct the chief minister to prove his majority.” Meanwhile, continuing the reshuffle of party office-bearers, Dhinakaran removed two ministers - Udumalai K Radhakrishnan and K C Karuppanan from their party posts. He also relieved former minister K V Ramalingam from party post.