THE first hint of trouble in the special session of the Tamil Nadu Assembly convened on February 18 for Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) to prove his majority came in a statement from the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) just a few hours before the voting. The DMK, which has 89 MLAs in the 234-member House (233 after Jayalalithaa’s death), urged Speaker P. Dhanapal to go in for “secret voting” since “the situation today is politically atypical”. It justified its demand by saying that the AIADMK was split in two, with caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and 10 MLAs rebelling against party general secretary V.K. Sasikala and the latter “detaining” the remaining 122 MLAs of that party in a beachfront resort at Koovathur, some 70 kilometres from Chennai, for more than a week. It termed this practice “undemocratic and unconstitutional”.
“The situation today is extraordinary, with both factions accusing each other of horse-trading, and hence secret voting alone will ensure justice,” DMK working president M.K. Stalin said. The Panneerselvam faction, which had been demanding this since the announcement on the trust vote was made, also felt it might be beneficial to it if fence sitters in the Sasikala camp voted according to “their conscience and as per people’s wishes”. The DMK and the Panneerselvam group accu