Chennai, Aug. 24: The Tamil Nadu Speaker today showcaused the 19 MLAs who have supported T.T.V. Dinakaran, AIADMK chief V.K. Sasikala Natarajan's nephew who has been removed as the deputy general secretary of the party, asking them to explain why they should not be "disqualified".
The 19 MLAs met governor Vidyasagar Rao on Tuesday to inform him that they were "withdrawing support" to chief minister E.K. Palanisamy "as he has lost our trust". The MLAs accused Palanisamy of being corrupt and abusing his power.
Legislative Assembly Speaker P. Dhanapal issued the showcause notice on the recommendation of government whip Rajendran.
Rajendran has suggested that the 19 MLAs be disqualified under the "anti-defection" law as they had not informed him before meeting the governor over withdrawing support to the chief minister.
Asserting that the MLAs had indulged in anti-party activities, Rajendran said "the decision of the Speaker in this regard is final".
This is not the first time Tamil Nadu has witnessed such a scenario. In January 1988, when M.G. Ramachandran's widow Janaki had sought a trust vote, then Speaker P.H. Pandian had disqualified 33 MLAs belonging to the "Jayalalithaa faction" and announced that Janaki had won the vote of confidence with 97 MLAs.
Today, the state secretariat became a beehive of political activity since morning with the chief minister holding consultations with several ministers and also the Speaker. Palanisamy had yesterday invited all his colleagues to be present in Chennai today.
Palanisamy, who heads the AIADMK (Amma) faction, had hoped he would be able to buy peace when he officially seals the merger pact with his deposed predecessor O. Panneerselvam, the leader of the AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) group.
While the re-unification of the two groups did take place on Monday after arduous negotiations for the past two months, the exercise is proving to be costly for Palanisamy with Dinakaran asserting himself aggressively.
Sasikala, the long-standing live-in aide of late chief minister Jayalalithaa, had anointed Dinakaran as the deputy chief of the AIADMK (Amma) before going to jail in a disproportionate assets case.
Although Palanisamy managed to manoeuvre the exit of Dinakaran from the post of deputy general secretary and also announced that Sasikala would soon be shown the door, the chief minister is now facing a fusillade of attacks from Dinakaran.
Dinakaran, who first deployed his group of 19 MLAs to launch a broadside against Palanisamy and then ensured their withdrawal of support to the chief minister, has replaced a number of top-level office-bearers. He has also stripped a number of ministers of their party posts.
The withdrawal of support by the 19 MLAs - Dinarakaran loyalist and MLA Vetrivel claims the number is 40 - has put Palanisamy's government in a precarious situation because the AIADMK now needs a minimum of 118 MLAs in the 234-member House to secure absolute majority.
Dinakaran aide, the MLA Thanga Thamizhselvan, Opposition DMK leader M.K. Stalin and Congress Legislature Party leader K.R. Ramasamy have appealed to the governor to instruct the chief minister to prove his majority.
While most leaders in Tamil Nadu have made the same demand, BJP parliamentarian Subramanian Swamy has gone a step further and called for the imposition of President's rule in Tamil Nadu.
Several lawyers and former Speaker Sedappatty Muthiah have said the Dinakaran loyalists cannot be disqualified as MLAs just because they have told the governor that they wanted to withdraw support to Palanisamy.
Vetrivel said the Speaker's showcause notice was "illegal", alleging that "this is to threaten the MLAs in our group and to prevent more from joining us".
The 19 MLAs today told journalists in Puducherry, where they have been staying in a luxury resort since Tuesday, that they would not be cowed down by the "tactics" of the Palanisamy camp.
"As we belong to the AIADMK (Amma), we are not bound by what the whip of the undivided AIADMK says," one of the MLAs said, articulating the views of the Dinakaran loyalists.
"We have done nothing wrong as our only demand is the replacement of chief minister Palanisamy. We are neither against the party nor its government," the MLA added. "When our letter of support for Palanisamy in February was valid, our communication to the governor on the withdrawal of support to him is equally valid."
Their counsel, Raja Sendurpandian, said if the MLAs were disqualified, they would move the high court immediately.
Ironically, V. Diwakaran, Sasikala's brother, told the media at his native town of Mannargudi yesterday that he would be happy if Speaker Dhanapal replaced Palanisamy as chief minister.