At the moment, on paper, the AIADMK has 114 MLAs in the 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly. It would require at least four more MLAs to stay put in power. Apart from having to win a minimum of four more MLAs, the AIADMK also has the tough task of keeping its MLAs under control
All the states where elections are over, the leaders who were in the thick of it are putting their feet up and taking it easy.
But in Tamil Nadu, which went to polls on April 18, the politicos, after a short break, are in the thick of a campaign for elections that carry an immediate and insistent relevance to the state.
By-elections to four Assembly constituencies will be held on May 19, and these seats have the potential to decide the fate of the Edappadi Palaniswami-led AIADMK government.
As of now, 22 seats are lying vacant (for various reasons) in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, and 18 of them went to polls on April 18, balloting will take place in the remaining four (Ottapidaram, Sulur, Thirupparankundram and Aravakurichi) on May 19.
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At the moment, on paper, the AIADMK has 114 MLAs in the 234-member Assembly. It would require at least four more MLAs to stay put in power. Apart from having to win a minimum of four more MLAs, the AIADMK also has the tough task of keeping its MLAs under control as they seem to be straining at the leash to ditch it or switch over to TTV Dhinakaran's AMMK, which is throwing every kind of bait to lure the AIADMK members.
The AMMK, in its zeal to dislodge the Palaniswami government and lay claim to the AIADMK legacy, is, ironically, not averse to fall into the clutches of the DMK — the traditional bete noire of AIADMK.
Already there seems to be some kind of broad understanding emerging between the DMK and the AMMK, and this might see them gang up should there be a confidence motion in the Assembly. Of course, that hinges on the numbers that the AIADMK manages in the by-elections.
Though the AIADMK is outwardly claiming that it is confident of doing well, there seems to be some inner trepidation and hence the party is attempting to put in place some emergency backup measures. The Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal recently sent disqualification notices to three AIADMK members who had campaigned for the AMMK in the general elections. However, the Supreme Court has ordered interim stay on the disqualification notice issued on the three MLAs — E Rathinasabapathy (Aranthangi), VT Kalaiselvan (Vridhachalam) and A Prabhu (Kallakurichi).
But why would the AIADMK want to disqualify its own members? The simple logic is that it would help bring the strength of the Assembly down, and the AIADMK can sail through no-confidence motion even if it managed to win only two or three seats in the by-elections.
In further confusion to the already complex situation, the AIADMK may still get the 11 MLAs disqualified who backed O Panneerselvam (when he was opposing Palaniswami) in 2017. The 11 MLAs had voted against the government then, but when Panneerselvam patched up with Palaniswami, the DMK wanted the 11 MLAs to be disqualified under anti-defection law (especially in the light of the fact that 18 MLAs who owed allegiance to the AMMK and had voted against the government were disqualified by the Speaker).
As it happened, Dhinakaran party went to court, but lost the case. Rather than appeal, he felt it was better to take on the AIADMK politically hence the by-elections were necessitated. (Four more seats were added to the by-election list due to deaths of MLAs and a couple of other issues).
But even if the AIADMK government does not muster up the requisite numbers, the scene will not get any clarity as the DMK (along with its allies the Congress and IUML) has 97 members in the Assembly. It needs to win a minimum of 20 seats to stake a claim to form the government. If it doesn't, then it may have to fall back on the support of the AMMK. It would be a tough tactical decision, and Dhinakaran has to anyway offer it. The general belief is that the AMMK and the DMK will come together to see off the AIADMK government and then move away thereafter.
But what happens at the Centre will also have a say in the proceedings here. Palaniswami is hoping of a NDA victory at the Centre to bail his government here.
Palaniswami, for his part, is pulling out all stops and campaigning energetically in the four constituencies. He says his government will triumph. But the DMK and AMMK are also sounding confident.
In any case, Tamil Nadu's political confusion does not look like clearing any sooner. Worse, elections over, Tamil Nadu may still face the prospect of another election season.
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Last Updated 9, May 2019, 3:54 PM