DMK members go on rampage during confidence vote

MAYHEM IN TAMIL NADU ASSEMBLY

  • Speaker gheroaed, heckled
  • Palaniswamy wins without Opposition in House

Chennai/ Hyderabad: The floor test in Tamil Nadu Assembly on Saturday turned out to be a high volatile drama amid scenes of violence and unruly behavior.

Although the two-day old AIADMK government headed by the nominee of jailed Sasikala, E Palaniswamy, won the confidence vote, the victory was widely criticized because the opposition, particularly the DMK, was absent. The vote was held after two adjournments of the House and rushed through.

Chief Minister Palaniswamy won the trust vote with the support of 122 MLAs, with 11 voting for O Panneerselvam. Although the media was denied access to the proceedings in the Assembly, visuals of chaos were later telecast on television channels.

It all began when the Opposition parties like the DMK and the Congress started demanding that the vote be postponed after their request for a secret ballot was rejected by Speaker P Dhanapal at the start of the session.  Citing Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao’s 15-day time period to garner support, Opposition members questioned the hasty nature of the proceedings. Nevertheless, the Speaker, said to be Sasikala’s loyalist, stuck to his guns.

His firm stand triggered unprecedented and violent scenes in the Assembly. DMK members went on a rampage. During the mayhem, the DMK members lay siege to the Well of the Assembly, broke chairs, threw books, torn papers, uprooted the mike on the Speaker’s table and chanted slogans demanding secret ballot.

The Speaker’s repeated appeals to maintain decency and decorum in the House went heedless as the DMK members heckled dragged and pushed him out of his seat. The marshals had to rush to the rescue of the Speaker and escorted him out of the House, which was adjourned till 1 pm without taking up the vote of confidence.

In fact, since morning a tense atmosphere had prevailed in and around the Tamil Nadu Assembly as people at large waited with bated breath to know whether Palaniswamy, the proxy of convicted and jailed Sasikala Natrajan, popularly being called Chinnamma, would emerge victorious much to the chagrin and dislike of those who had voted Amma Jayalalitha to power in 2016 or her loyalist and protégé O. Panneerselvam (OPS), despite he not having number of MLAs on his side, would succeed.

Keeping in view the state-wide attention on the crucial trust vote and the proposed Jallikattu like mass dharna on Marina Beach by anti- Palaniswamy supporters, the police made elaborate security arrangements to nip in the bud any untoward incident.

Media barred

The media was also barred from live coverage of the proceedings within the House, though they were also made to huddle in a media briefing room with the audio shut off. The DMK members led by their leader MK Stalin (total strength 88 barring M. Karunanidhi  who could not attend the special session due to his ill health) came to the House after deciding to vote against the trust motion. Likewise, the Congress with a strength of eight members also trooped in to vote against the confidence motion.

The ‘rebel’ AIADMK leader and former Chief Minister O Paneerselvam — having a support of just 11 MLAs to that of Palaniswamy having a support of 122 members — arrived with confidence. His demeanor showed that he had something up his sleeve to turn the tables on his rival.

Speaker Dhanpal soon after the House assembled at 11 am called the Chief Minister Palaniswamy to move the trust motion, which was done accordingly. Even before the process of voting could be taken up, DMK leader Stalin insisted that he be allowed to speak and also to hear the version of Palaniswamy and others. He alleged that the trust vote would be a farce if the MLAs who were allegedly locked up in a resort by the Palaniswamy group were not heard.

After indicating that the counting of members  would be taken up by segment wise and announced that each segment would consist of 38 members, the Speaker was about to commence the process of voting when the DMK members created a ruckus insisting that the voting should be carried by secret ballot. In a surprise move and deviating from the normal practice, the Speaker allowed Stalin, Pandiarajan (former Minister and AIADMK member who switched loyalty to OPS camp) and even OPS to speak.

Secret ballot not allowed

In their speech, all of them accused the Palaniswamy group of virtually keeping all the MLAs locked up in a resort and thus prevented them from taking a decision according to their free will and conscience. They insisted that the voting should be by secret ballot. The Speaker, however, rejected their plea and declared that no one could go against his directive and decision.

This sparked off trouble what with the DMK members rushing into the well of the House. Raising slogans and climbing on to the benches, some members even broke the chairs and tore books and papers and flung them at the Speaker. All hell broke loose and amidst the ruckus some official staff also sustained injuries. Some DMK members rushed and surrounded the hapless Speaker. His mike was broken, he was heckled and pushed out of his seat. Even as he was being escorted out by the marshals, two DMK members K. Selvam and Raghunanthan occupied the Speaker’s chair. Amidst the utter chaos and bedlam, the House was adjourned till 1 pm.

 Later, the Speaker expressed his pain and anguish over the horrible drama that unfolded in the House. He said his shirt was torn and he was pushed. “Where do I go and explain the torture meted out to me”, he lamented.

 When the House was reconvened after one hour recess at 1 pm, the high voltage drama did not subside as the Speaker had expelled all the DMK members from the House and asked them to leave. When they did not move out, the marshals came and bodily lifted them out, with the unrelenting DMK members vociferously protesting and raising slogans outside the House forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House till 3 pm.

When the House reassembled without DMK and some other Opposition members like IUML and Congress, it was a matter of a few minutes for the Palaniswamy faction of AIADMK to say ‘yes’ to the confidence motion. That’s how Palaniswamy won the floor test with 122 ruling AIADMK members voting in his favour and 11 members of the rebel faction of AIADMK led by O. Panneerselvam voting against him.

Incidentally, the floor test had to be conducted after 88 DMK members, the main Opposition, including the Leader of Opposition MK Stalin, were evicted from the House following the ruckus created by them. The eight-member Congress, which was also against Palaniswamy, walked out and so also the lone IMUL member.

Thus in the absence of the entire Opposition, Palaniswamy had a smooth sailing in the floor test to retain his Chief Minister’s seat to enable Chinnamma, who is now cooling her heels in a Bangalore jail, to remote control the Tamil Nadu administration from her cell room.

Stalin, DMK supporters detained

Meanwhile, Stalin met Governor Vidyasagar Rao at Raj Bhavan. Stalin was joined by DMK’s Rajya Sabha MPs Kanimozhi and Tiruchi Siva. Later he went on a hunger strike at Marina Beach protesting against the confidence vote.  He was detained by the Chennai police.

The dramatic developments in the Legislative Assembly and outside of it sparked protests across Tamil Nadu. Violence broke out in several parts of the State. DMK cadre blocked Chennai-Bangalore National Highway at several places and burnt the effigy of Speaker Dhanapal in Tiruvannamalai and other parts of the State. Several DMK supporters had also staged sit-in protests before the police intervened and dispersed them. –NSS

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