Edappadi Boat Continues To Sail In Tamil Nadu Despite Stormy Weathers

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has so far managed to sail through every storm that has come his way. He is now waiting with bated breath as to what the Supreme Court will rule on July 11, the date it is scheduled to hear a petition against the Vote of Confidence won by his Government last February.

Ramaswami Sampath

Chennai: There is an aphorism in Tamil – ‘Nitya gandam poorna ayush’, which means ‘There is a daily threat to one’s life, but he manages to live the full life’. This aptly fits Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami’s continuance in office, despite the constant threat of being dislodged from power.

Ever since his name figured in the RK Nagar voter bribing scam, along with some of his Cabinet colleagues, the opposition, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, has been thirsting for his blood. Even as he was tiding over that crisis, a video clipping, telecast by TV news channels, appeared. It revealed admission by a couple of MLAs belonging to rival factions within the All-India Anna DMK that they were offered fabulous sums in cash and gold to support the Sasikala-backed Palaniswami Ministry during the vote of confidence motion in the Assembly on February 18.

Basis this, leader of the Opposition, MK Stalin, who has not spared any chance to bring down the ministry, has gone to court and also to Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, seeking an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the “murky” affair. The Governor has referred the matter to the Assembly Speaker who has, however, ruled that since the matter is sub judice, nothing can be done at the moment. The Speaker has also refused to go by reports in newspapers and channels. One of the MLAs, who belongs to the O Panneerselvam faction, has accepted that the video is genuine, but alleged that the audio component of his reaction has been morphed.

Even as the Chief Minister got a breather, another scam surfaced on unfettered sale of ‘gutka’ and other tobacco products in the State, despite the ban imposed by the Supreme Court four years ago. The latest issue came to light following an Income Tax raid on the house of a drug peddler. In the raid, IT sleuths reportedly unearthed an incriminating document, which listed the ‘mamools’ paid to senior police officials and a Cabinet minister for acquiescing to the ‘gutka’ sale.

When Stalin raised the issue in the Assembly last week and demanded a CBI probe and immediate sacking the minister involved, Palaniswami papered over the issue stating: “Since the State Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption is seized of the issue, there is no need for a CBI inquiry.”

The latest headache for Palaniswami is announcement by party Deputy General Secretary TTV Dinakaran that he would start taking active part in the party affairs from August 5. Dinakaran had been asked to keep quiet for the sixty days by General Secretary Sasikala, who has been monitoring from her jail the progress of unity talks between Amma and Puratchi Thalaivi Amma factions. The 60 days stipulated are set to expire on August 5.

This has come as a spoke in the wheels of the Chief Minister, who has been trying to assert himself over the past few weeks, resisting indirect diktats from Dinakaran. As part of his assertions, Palaniswami has decreed that his photograph adorn every TN minister’s room. He has also started touring the State canvassing over the centenary celebrations of the party founder MG Ramachandran. He has instructed that only ministers and officials be on the dais of such functions. Party functionaries must be kept out because these are Government-sponsored events. According to reports, the Madurai function last week was a grand success with a mammoth gathering in attendance.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister is also scrupulously avoiding making a beeline to the Parappana Central Prison, where Sasikala is lodged. He has also not been mentioning her name and that of Dinakaran in his speeches in the Assembly or outside. It is a moot point how long will he be able to hold on like this. Observers feel that Tamil Nadu politics may take a different turn soon after the Presidential elections are over.

But before then, giving sleepless nights to Palaniswami is the Supreme Court’s consent to hear on July 11 the writ petition filed by ‘Ma Foi’ Pandiarjan of the Panneerselvam faction, seeking quashing of the confidence vote taken in the Assembly on February 18 and conduct of a fresh motion of confidence in TN Legislative Assembly through secret ballot. The February 18 motion was won by Palaniswami by voice vote, which, according to Pandiarajan, “is illegal, capricious, discriminatory and violative of the principle of secrecy, which is the essence of democracy, free and fair elections, and the voter’s freedom of expression”.

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