Tamil Nadu is gearing up to witness the crescendo of its political turmoil in the state Assembly, in the form of a floor test on Saturday. People across the state have been actively contributing to this decision making process, a fact emphasised by the number of phone calls legislators have been receiving following the cracks within the AIADMK.
One such legislator, who had initially refused to take a stand, has now made his decision public. Mylapore MLA R Nataraj told TNM on Friday, that he will be voting against Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami in the vote of confidence.
Sasikala's chosen man was granted 15 days by the Governor to prove his majority on the floor of the Tamil Nadu Assembly. The Tamil Nadu Assembly has a strength of 234 MLAs. Edappadi currently claims to have the support of over 120 MLAs. 10 MLAs have made their loyalties to O Panneerselvam clear.
If the DMK joins the voting process, the Chief Minister will require the backing of 117 MLAs to prove his majority. While the arithmetic seems to be in favour of the Sasikala faction, the OPS camp has claimed over and over again that the sentiment is in their favour. With R Nataraj now extending his support, the OPS camp has 11 MLAs on its side.
The former Tamil Nadu Director General of Police, R Nataraj's decision to support O Panneerselvam would prove to be a shot in the arm for the OPS camp. The MLA did not immediately choose sides in this power struggle. He had instead claimed that he would talk to the voters in his constituency in order to make an informed decision.
"I have been all along saying I want unity in the party. I don't like divisions or factions in the party. But I respect people's feelings and I will vote against Edappadi Palaniswami," Nataraj told TNM.
If the legislator defies the party whip in this matter, which is likely to be issued, he may face expulsion. The MLA however doesn't seem too perturbed about the party's reaction to his decision. "I don't know about that. It is a great weight off my mind. I have been deliberating this for some time now," he said.
While 4 time MLA Edappadi Palaniswami has made his loyalties to Sasikala clear and portrayed an image of confidence regarding the floor test, the OPS camp claims it will continue to fight till 'Panneerselvam becomes head of the state'.
When asked if they were in talks with MLAs in the Sasikala faction, recently expelled AIADMK veteran C Ponnaiyan told TNM, "We are not calling them, they are all reaching out to us."
Read the full statement here:
In the present political crisis which has unfortunately engulfed our state, I had chosen to maintain a neutral stand even though I was subject to abuse and criticism. I have never been a popularity seeker and only believing in taking rational decisions based on equity and good conscience. My neutral stand was only because I wanted the party to remain united come what may so that the Glorious Mandate given by the people of Tamil Nadu to the AIADMK is not wasted. But despite all my best efforts for unity, I could not achieve the same and we have reached an unfortunate situation wherein two factions of the same party are fighting on the floor of the house.
As I have mentioned earlier, the Role of an MLA is not only confined to constituency work but also to exercise his discretion wisely in the Assembly. This brings us to the important floor test tomorrow i.e. 18th of Feb, 2017. It is my duty to take a decision. My decision is based on the conscience and the will of the people of Mylapore. I will vote reflecting the will of the people and the collective desire of each party cadre in AIADMK in Mylapore. After all, I am only a representative of the collective voice of the people. Therefore, considering the above and the prevalent circumstances, my Vote will be in favour of Mr. O. Paneerselvam.
It is pertinent to mention that when late Hon'ble Amma interviewed me, she told me to promote youngsters and the youth in the party. I am an MLA today only because of the support the youth of Mylapore have given me. I owe almost everything to them. Even in the jallikattu protests, the youth conducted their protests so peacefully and in a dignified manner. Their voice cannot be ignored anymore. I will work and strive to promote more youngsters to actively participate in public life.
I was appointed by late Hon'ble Chief Minister Selvi J Jayalalitha and hence my loyalty will only be with her. I have enormous regard for many ministers but I will not be able to work against my conscience and the will of the Mylapore people. Honesty and integrity are my only assets and I will continue to work for the people of Mylapore come what may.
I hope everyone supports me in my endeavours.
(With inputs from Anna Isaac)