The Madras High Court order upholding disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs paves the way for immediate by-elections to fill the vacancies, along with two other seats that fell vacant due to death of incumbents. The disqualified MLAs on a Wednesday declared they will face bye-elections rather than move the Supreme Court to appeal against their disqualification.
There has been never a dull moment in Tamil Nadu since the passing away of two of its leading political icons – J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi – within the space of two years, with several players trying to fill the political vacuum.
Among them are two superstars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan trying their luck to see if the film-crazed state would once again favour artists.
The process could be hastened due to the upholding of disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs that saved the Edapadi Palaniswami government by bringing down the magic number to 108 from 117 in the 234 member assembly.
On Wednesday, the disqualified MLAs declared they were not willing to appeal against the Madras High Court order, making it necessary for the election commission to consider holding bye-polls to 20 seats, including two seats that fell vacant due to the death of the incumbents.
This has added to the ongoing political drama in the state. The leader of the 18 disqualified MLAs TTV Dhinakaran declared on Wednesday that they will face elections rather than appeal against the Madras High Court order in the Supreme Court.
The court order had given temporary relief to the state government, but the threat of bye-polls hangs over its head. It paves the way for the holding of bye-elections the out come of which can alter the numbers game dramatically.
At present, the ruling party, AIADMK, has 116 MLAS, the DMK led opposition has 98 and there are 20 vacancies.
After disqualification, the halfway mark in the assembly fell to 107 and the magic number for majority is 108. This would increase to 117 once the by-elections are held and the house has full strength.
Should a resurgent DMK manage to wrest these seats from a divided AIADMK amid the uncertainty thrown up by the presence of two superstars and other regional forces, the numbers game in the assembly will become very interesting. The AIADMK leadership knows that without a charismatic leader like Jayalalithaa, it would e facing tough time in the elections.
The DMK on its part is keen to press for immediate holding of elections to fill the 20 vacancies, as it is already in a poll-mode for the 2019 general elections to Lok Sabha. DMK president MK Stalin has made it clear that the DMK is for holding by-elections quickly. “We want all the 2-0 constituencies to have elected representatives,” Stalin said after the High Court verdict.
“The current government with 20 MLAs vacancy in assembly is facing a volatile future,” said perception strategist and political analyst John Arokiaswamy.
Incidentally, Tamil news channels have recently ran a survey that puts DMK president MK Stalin as the preferred choice of 41 per cent of respondents as the Chief Minister as compared to a mere 10 per cent in favour of Chief Minister Palaniswami.
It is perhaps for these reasons that the Palaniswami government had hoped against hope that the disqualified MLAs would challenge the Madras High Court order. But on Wednesday they announced their intentions clearly.
Now it remains to be seen as to when the election commission considers the question of holding bye-elections to fill the 20 vacancies, which is being viewed as a mini-general elections for TN assembly.