[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]n a day which brought back the memories of January 23, 1988 which the people of Tamil Nadu and rest of the country would like to forget forever, Edappadi Palaniswamy (means the God who resides at Palani, i. e. Subramanian), the newly sworn in chief minister won the vote of confidence in the Legislative Assembly on Saturday.
Tense atmosphere prevailed from the moment the House met at 11 AM.
All members of the 89 strong DMK, the principal opposition party, were evicted from the House by the security staff with the help of police while the Congress and the Muslim League (allies of the DMK) staged a walk out before the motion was put to vote.
The government got 122 votes in favor while the faction led by former chief minister O Panneerselvam which opposed the motion had to content with just 11 votes. Tense atmosphere prevailed from the moment the House met at 11 AM. The Speaker had ordered that there would not be any live telecast of the session.
What became clear on Saturday was that the MLAs whose signatures were submitted by Palaniswamy to Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, were being held hostages by the private army of the Sasikala clan. The MLAs were brought to the House from the beach resort in the cars being used by the ministers. Each car carrying the MLAs were guarded by ferocious looking security guards brought in from Mannargudi and Tirunelveli.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he session began at 11 AM with the chief minister moving the motion for the vote of trust. But leader of the opposition M K Stalin demanded secret ballot which was rejected by the Speaker. Stalin explained that the situation warranted the Speaker to permit voting by secret ballots as most of the MLAs paraded by Palaniswamy looked so frightened and threatened. Speaker Dhanapal, a servile of the Sasikala family rejected the demand which led to pandemonium in the House.
When the House was reconvened, it turned out to be a free for all. The police posted outside the assembly building were seen entering the corridor leading to the House.
The DMK alleged that the MLAs were being held as hostages by the chief minister’s camp. “We saw them being herded to the House like prisoners. They are under threat and hence they would not be able to vote without fear,” said Stalin.
But Speaker P Dhanapal, whose allegiance to V K Sasikala, the jailed general secretary of the AIADMK, is famous, stood his ground and refused the request for secret ballot. The DMK members rushed to the well of the House which prompted the Speaker to adjourn the House till 12 pm.
Things turned worse when the House resumed the sitting at 12 pm. The DMK members were seen climbing over the podium and heckling and jostling the Speaker. Some of the DMK members tore the files and threw pieces of paper all over. One of the DMK members by name Panneerselvan was seen tickling the Speaker while a lady member pulled Dhanapal towards her. In the melee, his shirt got torn and while escorting out by the security personnel, the Speaker ordered the eviction of the DMK members and adjourned the House again to meet at 3 PM.
When the House was reconvened, it turned out to be a free for all. The police posted outside the assembly building were seen entering the corridor leading to the House. Even as the DMK members were seen over turning the table of the Speaker and removing the mikes, the entire security staff took position and they physically lifted Stalin from the House and brought him outside. His shirt too got torn in the jostling with the Marshals of the House. Following the eviction of the DMK members, the Speaker called for division method for voting and declared that Palaniswamy won 122-11.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]“T[/dropcap]he moment the Speaker rejected our demand for a secret vote, the battle was lost. There was no possibility of the MLAs who were under the captivity of Palaniswamy voting against the government as they were under threat and physical danger,” said T K S Elangovan, MP and spokesman of the DMK. He said the victory of Palaniswamy in today’s voting was a travesty of justice. “It is the beginning of the end. How long the government will survive with a wafer thin majority is anybody’s guess,” said Elangovan.
On January 23, 1988, Janaki Ramachandran, who was sworn in as chief minister immediately after the passing away of MGR had sought a similar vote of confidence.
“The battle is over but the war of Dharma has begun. We are the original AIADMK. We will soon re-establish the Amma rule in Tamil Nadu,” said S Semmalai, the chief whip of the Panneerselvam faction of the AIADMK. He pointed out that the Governor had given the chief minister 15 days to seek the vote of trust. “He should have allowed the MLAs to go back to their respective constituencies to find out the mood of the people who got them elected. Then only the members would understand the ground reality,” said Semmalai, one of the founder leaders of the AIADMK.
Stalin drove down to the Gandhi Statue at the Marina Beach for a sit-in demonstration with other MLAs and was taken into custody by the police. Though Chennai remained peaceful, there were widespread riots in places like Salem, Madurai and Tiruchi following the detaining of the DMK working president.
On January 23, 1988, Janaki Ramachandran, who was sworn in as chief minister immediately after the passing away of MGR had sought a similar vote of confidence. The AIADMK which had split by that time into Janaki and Jayalalithaa factions scraped through the confidence vote with the tacit help offered by Paul Hector Pandian, the Speaker. The Speaker disqualified all those who were against Janaki and declared that the motion was accepted by 99 votes. Fortunately for Tamil Nadu, the government of Janaki was dismissed immediately by the Centre using Article 356 of the Constitution.