A day after the ruling AIADMK faction merged with party led by former CM turned rebel O Panneerselvam, 19 MLAs pledging support to ‘ousted’ Deputy General Secretary TTV Dhinakaran submitted individual petitions to the Tamil Nadu Governor Vidyasagar Rao. These MLAs informed the Governor of their decision to withdraw support to Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, expressing their lack of confidence in him and accusing him of corruption and abuse of power.
What does withdrawing support to the Chief Minister mean?
Constitutional expert Subash Kashyap says, “It means withdrawing support to the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister.” But he points out that the issue of expressing lack of confidence in the Chief Minister does not concern the Governor.
“It is the Assembly which has to pass a vote of confidence. The Governor shouldn’t have anything to do with this and he need not instruct them to order a floor test in the Assembly,” observes Kashyap.
However, with the Assembly not in session, the Governor can direct the Chief Minister to take a floor test to prove his majority. For example, in 1990 then President R Venkatraman ordered then Prime Minister VP Singh to summon the House and seek a vote of confidence.
So, what happens next?
Kashyap says that any legislative member including an Opposition MLA can move a no confidence motion.
As per the rules of procedure, “If the Speaker is of opinion that the motion is in order, he shall read the motion to the House and shall request those members who are in favour of leave being granted to rise in their places and if not less than 24 members rise accordingly, the Speaker shall intimate that leave is granted and the motion will be taken on such day not being more than ten days from which the leave is asked for as he may appoint. If less than 24 members rise, the Speaker shall inform the member that he has not leave of the House.”
Can the Speaker choose not to take up a no confidence motion?
Kashyap says that the Speaker is bound by the rules of Assembly. “He will be doing something unconstitutional if he chooses to not up the motion,” he notes.
What happens if EPS loses majority?
As pointed out by TNM earlier, TTV Dhinakaran can pull down the government as he has the support of at least 19 MLAs. This as the merged factions of EPS and OPS have the support of 115 MLAs, falling short of the magic number of 117 in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.
Leader of Opposition and DMK Working President MK Stalin has also written a letter to the Governor requesting him to direct Chief Minister EPS to prove his majority in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. With the backing of 98 MLAs including Congress and IUML, the question is, will Stalin now join hands with TTV to bring down the EPS government?
“If he loses majority, only then the Governor steps in. The CM and his Council of Ministers will have to resign. If they do not resign, the Governor can dismiss the government,” says Kashyap.