|MORNING SHOWS MK Stalin, the DMK’s working president, arrives at |
the Tamil Nadu secretariat, on the premises of which the Assembly is
located, on Saturday. (PTI pictures)
G.C. Shekhar, TT, Chennai, Feb. 18: The scorecard at the end of today's tumultuous trust vote in the Tamil Nadu Assembly read: "ayes" 122; "nays" 11; evicted 88; walkouts 9; absent 2; torn shirts 3; unhitched dhoti 1.
The outcome: a comfortable win for the government of V.K. Sasikala protégé E.K. Palaniswami and a drubbing for his predecessor O. Panneerselvam, leading a rebel faction of the ruling party.
All the DMK members, barring the absent party chief M. Karunanidhi, had been evicted for creating a ruckus to try and force a weeklong adjournment. After two adjournments, they were dragged, lifted and pushed out of the House by police.
Party working president M.K. Stalin's shirt was torn; so was Speaker Dhanapal's. Former DMK minister I. Periasamy lost his dhoti when he was lifted and carried out, and could be seen in a white shirt and briefs for a few seconds.
The eight Congress members and the lone Indian Union Muslim League representative, who are DMK allies, walked out in protest.
DMK members and the Panneerselvam camp had demanded a secret ballot and, when the Speaker insisted the rules did not allow it, sought a weeklong adjournment.
"Adjourn the House for a week and let the MLAs go back to their constituencies, assess the public mood and come back to vote here," Stalin argued.
Panneerselvam said that MLAs being "locked up" in a resort and "brainwashed" was no way to prove a majority. "You have an unnatural situation where a trust vote will not reflect the conscience of the MLAs or the will of the people," he said.
Panneerselvam and the DMK were counting on a long adjournment to erode Palaniswami's numbers. They hoped that many would follow the example of Coimbatore North MLA Ashok Kumar, who had sneaked out of the resort on Friday night and announced he would not be in the Assembly for the trust vote.
But Dhanapal, a Dalit handpicked by Jayalalithaa for the Speaker's post, would not dilute Palaniswami's advantage: 120-plus MLAs roomed and groomed to pitch for the government in a House of 233, with a majority mark of 117.
"Even if all the DMK and Congress MLAs were present and had voted today, the government would have won as illustrated by the 122 votes, which is well above the majority mark," Dhanapal told the Assembly after the vote.
Earlier, DMK members had toppled his podium, flung books and wastepaper baskets in the air, and broke the Assembly secretary's chair. Dhanapal adjourned the House and pushed his way out through the DMK's blockade.
When the protests continued after the House reassembled at 1pm, the Speaker asked for the DMK members to be evicted, but the marshals proved unequal to the task.
Dhanapal adjourned the House again but the DMK members stayed put. Around 2.20pm, police entered wearing the marshals' white uniform, as the rules required. Physically stronger than the marshals, they evicted the protesters within 20 minutes.
Panneerselvam's rebels did not join the rumpus but stood firm against the government despite the risk of eventual disqualification for violating the party whip.
Palaniswami's MLAs were a model of restraint. Barring a few senior ministers, they remained in their seats from 11am till 3.30pm, without even taking bathroom breaks during the two adjournments.