The Madras High Court on Thursday delivered a split verdict in the disqualification case of 18 AIADMK MLAs owing allegiance to sidelined party leader TTV Dhinakaran. While Chief Justice Indira Banerjee upheld the Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal’s decision, judge M Sundar quashed his order. The matter will now be heard by a three-judge bench headed by the senior-most judge after chief justice Banerjee.
The ruling AIADMK has a strength of 116 MLAs excluding the Speaker but including S Karunaas (Mukkulathor Pulipadai), M Thamimun Ansari (Manithaneya Jananayaga Katchi) and U Thaniyarasu (Tamil Nadu Kongu Ilaignar Peravai), who had won on the ruling party’s two leaves symbol in 2016 polls.
While 18 MLAs owing allegiance to Dhinakaran were disqualified, the DMK has 89 MLAs, its allies Congress eight and the IUML one in the 234-member House. Dhinakaran got elected from RK Nagar in 2017 and he is the lone independent member of the House.
Dhinakaran, nephew of deposed party leader VK Sasikala, had been claiming that the Palaniswami government would not last long.
The MLAs were disqualified after they had called on Tamil Nadu Governor expressing lack of confidence in the leadership of Palaniswami and seeking a change of guard.
The MLAs had met the governor on August 22, 2017, a day after then rival factions led by Palaniswami and his now deputy Panneerselvam merged their factions after deposing Dhinaknaran as the deputy general secretary.
This verdict is likely to open up a fresh round of political squabbles and legal battles and could have a bearing on the stability of the AIADMK government led by Chief Minister K Palaniswami, who had assumed office in February 2017 with the backing of Dhinakaran but later turned against him.