The Edappadi government has been moving from one crisis to another ever since its inception. However, the case relating to the disqualification of 18 AIADMK MLAs could be the biggest crisis ever, whichever way the verdict goes. The judgment of the third judge is expected in a day or two, even as AIADMK crisis managers are keeping their fingers crossed. At the same time, the AMMK of the TTV Dinakaran group will also face hectic challenges and will have to display tremendous management and political skills if it has to counter the official AIADMK.
Inmathi.com brings to you the different possible scenarios that could emerge in the next few weeks, depending on the judgment of Justice M. Sathyanarayanan, the third judge to hear the case after a split judgment earlier:
The third judge quashes the disqualification of the 18 AIADMK MLAs and restores their membership of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. This will straightaway push the Edappadi government into a major crisis, as the government would be reduced to a minority. In the 234-member Assembly, the opposition DMK-led alliance has 97 seats (DMK 88, Congress 8, IUML 1), and AMMK 1 (TTV Dinakaran), taking the total opposition strength to 98 in the 234-member House reduced to 214 (Disqualification of 18 MLAs and 2 seats, namely Tiruvarur and Tiuruparunkundram being vacant). Which means the AIADMK has 116 including the Speaker.
If 18 MLAs win their case, the strength of the opposition would increase to 98 + 18 = 116. Out of 234, two seats are vacant, and Speaker cannot vote in the confidence or no-confidence motion. The winning side has to get a majority out of 231, which means 116. Technically, the AIADMK has only 115 votes since the Speaker cannot vote in normal circumstances. The Edappadi government can be defeated by one vote. The loyalty of three AIADMK MLAs (who belong to other parties but contested on AIADMK symbol like actor Karunas) is also suspect. If they too vote against the government, as is likely given that they are closer to Dinakaran than to the AIADMK), it is possible that the opposition could secure 119 votes, and the ruling AIADMK only 112.
If 18 MLAs win their case, the strength of the opposition would increase to 98 + 18 = 116.
However, there is a snag here as the 18 MLAs who win the case and the other three mentioned above will be governed by the AIADMK party whip to vote in favour of the government. If they defy the whip, and do not vote for the government, the ruling party can move the Speaker for a motion to disqualify them.
These MLAs, in order to retain their membership and live to fight for another day, will have to vote for the government.
There is an outside possibility that they can vote against the government, bring it down in the confidence vote, and then align with the opposition to form an alternate government with the support of these 116 or 119 MLAs, if there is an immediate change of government. In the meanwhile, under one scenario, the outgoing Speaker can accept a demand for disqualification of these 18 MLAs and disqualify them. The report of the Speaker would then go to the Governor that with the disqualification of the 18 MLAs, the Edappadi government has the confidence of the House, and that this should be accepted by the Governor. If the Governor accepts this report, he can declare that the Edappadi government has the majority support in the House, and the 18 MLAs would again have to move the court to retain their membership. The entire process of a legal battle would then begin all over again but would give breathing time to the Edappadi government.
There is another scenario that could emerge during the trust vote, when the 18 MLAs are disqualified even before their votes can be counted as per the stand adopted by former Speaker P H Pandian, who disqualified 33 MLAs of the AIADMK Jayalalithaa group during the trust vote itself. Pandian adopted the unique stand of having block wise voting. When MLAs of a block are asked to stand to indicate if they would vote for the government, MLAs belonging to the group of 18 would not stand, and would wait for vote by the nayes next. But before the Speaker asks the nayes to stand up, the government whip who belongs to the Edappadi group would seek to disqualify members of this 18-member group for not standing up and voting for the government. In effect, even before they can vote against the government, they would be disqualified block by block. By this method, the government can prevent the votes of the 18 MLAs from being counted. At the end of such counting, the Edappadi group would be declared to have won with 115 votes, while 98 vote against, and 18 are disqualified, out of a total strength of 231.
P H Pandian is now in charge of the Legal wing of the party, so it is likely that the Pandian line would be followed by the ruling party.
In this case too, the 18 MLAs may later move the Court and also give a petition to the Governor. The opposition may also lodge their protest with the Governor but in the present situation, the Governor may not help the DMK form an alternate government.
In the last version of the scenario, the government can survive. A long tenuous battle against disqualification could go all the way to the Supreme Court.
Yet another version could take place when the High Court order of quashing the disqualification (following the third judge verdict) could well be challenged by the Edappadi government before the Supreme Court. The Speaker may take the stand that since the matter is pending before the SC he would not allow the 18 MLAs to enter the House. This order of the Speaker could also be challenged by the 18 MLAs. The Governor may have to intervene in such an eventuality.
The important question during such issues could well be the stand of the BJP-led government at the Centre and the Governor. Will they go all out to support the Edappadi government or will they be neutral? On this, will depend the fate of the chief minister, Edappadi Palaniswamy.
Another possibility is that the 18 MLAs would be wooed by the Edappadi Palaniswamy-led AIADMK. Even if four or five of them are weaned away with the help of enticing offers, the strength of the opposition could come down to 111 or 112, while the ruling party could easily pass the 116 mark required to prove its majority.
Therefore, Scenario 1 is full of twists and turns, and could provide edge-of-seat-entertainment to TV watchers and lovers of Breaking News.
In the event of the High Court verdict going in favour of the ruling AIADMK, and the 18 MLAs stand disqualified, the latter could move the Supreme Court, and the matter could still go through the legal process. However, this situation would provide immediate and tremendous relief to the AIADMK government. An adverse verdict from the SC could still pose a problem to the government later but the ruling AIADMK could at least buy time.
The disqualification of the 18 MLAs could be a setback for the Dinakaran camp as TTV Dinakaran has been holding on to the MLAs and their supporters largely on the ground that they would win the legal battle and continue as MLAs.
However, the Dinakaran camp has put out an impressive show of unity and consolidation of a good chunk of cadres at district-level meetings of the AMMK in all parts of Tamil Nadu. These rallies have rattled the ruling AIADMK and also boosted the confidence of the AMMK. The trickle-down effect has been felt by the 18 MLAs too and they appear to have thrown in their lot with the AMMK, at least for the time being.