Confirming the shift, rebel lawmaker Thanga Tamilselvan said, “We are leaving to make way for guests who had made prior bookings… We would remain in Pondy till we take a decision.”
The rebels had been whisked away to Puducherry on Tuesday to ensure that they do not come under the influence of the Chief Minister and be lured back to the fold. Earlier today, the opposition DMK had asked Tamil Nadu Governor CH Vidyasagar Rao to immediately direct Chief Minister K Palaniswami to prove his majority in the Assembly. Any delay, the DMK contended, would lead to “horse trading”.
On Tuesday morning, the rebels had met the Governor with an agenda – the removal of E Palaniswami from the Chief Minister’s post. They have accused the Chief Minister of betrayal for his decision to expel VK Sasikala and her nephew and deputy TTV Dhinakaran as part of his merger agreement with O Panneerselvam.
Yesterday, the Chief Government Whip had sought the disqualification of the dissidents for alleged anti-party activities. If EPS, as the Chief Minister is popularly known, has to face a trust vote, he could be in trouble. The united AIADMK has 134 legislators in the 234-member house – 16 more than the 118 needed for majority. A rebellion by the 19 Sasikala supporters will take his numbers below the half-way mark.
The removal of Ms Sasikala had been one of the key demands of O Panneerselvam, the leader of the faction that merged with the larger group led by Mr Palaniswami earlier this week. A stand-in for former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, OPS, as he is popularly known, had become the Chief Minister after her death in December. But he rebelled after VK Sasikala, the long-time live-in aide of Jayalalithaa, who had taken over the party, forced him to step down so she could occupy the top post.
Ms Sasikala’s Chief Ministerial ambitions, however, were cut short after she was convicted in a corruption case.