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India: Tamil Nadu chief minister Palaniswami wins floor test amid bedlam

E Palaniswami was sworn-in as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu on February 16. Photograph: (AFP)

WION Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India Feb 18, 2017, 03.11 AM (IST)

Newly-appointed chief minister E Palaniswami on Saturday won the floor test in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, with 122 MLAs voting in favour of his AIADMK government and 11 from the rival O Panneerselvam camp against. 

Opposition DMK members, who had earlier declared they would vote against the chief minister, were evicted from the house after creating ruckus and manhandling the speaker of the house. The Congress and IUML (Indian Union Muslim League), also opposition parties, walked out in protest before the crucial voting took place.
 

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Earlier, Palaniswami, a Sasikala loyalist, needed to prove that 117 of the Assembly's 234 lawmakers backed him. 

The effective strength of the house was reduced to 134 once the DMK's 88 members were evicted and the Congress' 8 members also walked out. This lowered the number of votes that Palaniswami needed to win a majority.

DMK leader Stalin, who protested at Marina Beach after the vote, was detained by the police along with other legislators of the DMK.

Stalin said he had written a letter to the Governor, stating it was "unconstitutional" of the Speaker to conduct a trust vote in the absence of members of the Opposition.

"Request Tamil Nadu Governor to restore democratic values and order Assembly postponement for conducting secret voting on the Confidence Motion," MK Stalin said in the letter.

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Stalin earlier met Tamil Nadu Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao immediately after the trust vote. DMK workers protested outside the Governor's House alleging that their party's legialators were forcibly evicted from the house. 

The Panneerselvam camp, meanewhile, claimed that the outcome would have been different had the DMK members not been evicted and voting been done by secret ballot. 

"DMK MLAs for three hours kept on repeating their request to save democracy, now in absence of all of us, vote was passed. We doubt its validity," Panneerselvam alleged.

"We had kept kept two demands before speaker, one was to send MLAs to their constituencies, but Speaker didn't agree to them".

Panneerselvam sympathised with the DMK MLAs who were forcibly evicted from the Assembly.

"It is against democracy and the resolution was passed after they were evicted from the Assembly."

Asked about the appointment of AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala's family members to top party posts, Pannerselvam said, "If Jayalalihaa was alive, she would have continued to ensure that they did not have any access to the party."

"There were constant threats. Abusive language was used. Things would've been different if secret ballot was done," said K Pandiarajan, former school education minister, who crossed over to the Panneerselvam camp.

The Assembly was to vote at 11 am but the house was suspended twice on Saturday. The Opposition MLAs were expelled from the house by the speaker, who in turn had been manhandled by opposition lawmakers earlier after he turned down their demand for a secret ballot.  Members of the opposition ripped papers, toppled tables and threw microphones to demand a secret ballot that would potentially allow legislators from the ruling AIADMK party to switch sides.

Television footage showed legislators storming the well of the house and manhandling each other, injuring at least one member who was carried out on a stretcher. 

The speaker, who was whisked away to safety by marshals, ordered the eviction of disruptive legislators.

Popular South star Kamal Haasan slammed legislators for their unruly behaviour on Twitter.
 

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Palaniswami and AIADMK legislators paid tribute to Jayalalithaa at her memorial in Chennai's Marina Beach soon after winning the vote of confidence.

Palaniswami was sworn-in as the chief minister on Thursday (February 16). The governor had given him 15 days to prove his majority in the house. 

Rebel former chief minister O Panneerselvam, who had claimed the support of 11 MLAs, had also staked claim to form the government in a meeting with Governor C Vidyasagar Rao earlier this week. 

Tamil Nadu was plunged into political crisis two months after Jayalalithaa's sudden death.

Her close aide Sasikala -- a one-time video cassette seller who has never held political office or stood for election -- emerged as the heir apparent until she was convicted on Tuesday for amassing illegal assets worth $10 million, barring her from holding office for a decade.

The corruption case dates back to the late 1990s, when Jayalalithaa and Sasikala were accused of profiting from the chief minister's office and acquiring wealth beyond their income.

Sasikala had earlier kept several dozen legislators in a resort outside Chennai over fears her opponents' camp might try to poach them in the battle for succession.


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(WION with inputs from ANI, AFP)

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