How Stalin tried to turn a loss into a win

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 22, 2017 15:14 hrs
Stalin sits in protest

M.K Stalin, Working President of the DMK, stole the show at the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Saturday. Bringing an end to the political impasse, the Governor had earlier sworn in Sasikala’s pick, Edapadi Palani, as the Chief Minister and scheduled a confidence vote. With 11 MLAs and other senior AIADMK leaders pledging support for the rival O.Paneerselvam camp, there was much anticipation about what would happen at the Assembly.

As soon as the proceedings began, the opposition led by Stalin, demanded that the voting be carried out through a secret ballot although there was no precedence of this in the state. The situation was tense, with a heavy police presence and all roads leading up to the Secretariat being blocked off.

The session which began at 11am was adjourned after the Speaker Dhanapal refused to entertain the demands of the opposition, including DMK, Congress and the IUML that voting should be held as a secret ballot. When the speaker refused to concede, they demanded that the vote be postponed for two days so that MLAs, who had been holed up in a resort for almost a week, be allowed to go to their constituencies and listen to the people. Once again this request was denied. Rakesh Mehar of The News Minute wrote

From this point, the simmering tension inside the Assembly was ratcheted up to the level of high drama. Even as Dhanapal insisted on conducting the division of votes, the Opposition MLAs launched into sloganeering, eventually gherao-ing the Speaker. With some MLAs grabbing Dhanapal, and chairs and mics being damaged, the Session was adjourned twice, until 3pm.

Nakheeran TV has a compilation of the tense visuals here. MLAs are seen gherraoing Dhanapal, sloganeering and some are tearing papers, overturning the speaker’s chair with Stalin standing silently amidst the chaos. As the speaker is seen being escorted out by police, some of the MLAs held on to his hand to pull him back. Dhanapal is seen with his shirt torn.

When the Assembly reconvened, Dhapal appeals to the MLAs - I have come from a very ordinary and backward background and am trying to lead the Assembly. I request you to give me your cooperation. You have caused disrespect to the position of the Speaker by tearing my shirt. But it is ok, I will bear it. You have elected me as the Speaker, the rules have been given to me. I am obliged to conduct the proceedings as per the rules.

When the MLAs resort to gherrao once again, the Speaker ordered the police to evict those from the DMK. Here are the dramatic visuals of Stalin being carried out of the Assembly.

Voting finally took place with Edapadi Palanisami emerging winner with 122 votes.

Sruthisagar Yamunan describes Stalin demeanour in this article in Scroll.

As his car left the Assembly complex, Stalin noticed photographers standing on the roadside trying to get his pictures. With an unbuttoned shirt that was partly torn, Stalin stepped out of the car, took a few steps forward, pointing to his shirt and waved to them. An unbuttoned shirt exposing the vest inside was the sartorial stamp of the superstar that the people of Tamil Nadu are quite used to.

Soon after he addressed the press, Stalin made his way to the Governor and then went to protest at the Marina beach where was picked up and detained by the police.

Kanishka Singh writes in The Indian Express that although Stalin may not have succeeded, the entire event was orchestrated in a way which may ultimately favour him. While the DMK supported OPS and raised slogans in support of him, it was Stalin who emerged the hero of the day.

The episode was also a cue for Stalin to come out of the shadows of his father and DMK chief Karunanidhi and to derail OPS’ popularity as the principal Opposition to the AIADMK and dampen OPS’ rising stature in state politics.

The Hindu editorial calls the happenings at the Assembly an abysmal low point and points out that Stalin was not correct in his tactics and manufacturing a ruckus. Instead if he felt aggrieved by the situation, should bring a confidence motion once again after giving appropriate notice.

Mr. Stalin cannot look for political short cuts by condoning violence in the Assembly and questioning the legitimacy of a government enjoying, to the extent it can be institutionally ascertained, the support of a majority of the elected members of the House. Mr. Stalin’s time may well come, but he needs to show more patience than he did last Saturday.

Stalin is left which no choice but to take the matter to court. According to The Times of India, the PIL filed by Stalin alleged that the speaker Dhanapal and the Secretary tampered with the recording of events at the Assembly and therefore sought the following -

direct the authorities to produce a videograph recording of the adoption of confidence motion; two, it asked for an interim stay of the decision of the speaker; three, that the court issue an order to restrain Palaniswami and his ministry from taking any policy decision in any manner; and, four, that it issue an interim direction to the speaker asking him to conduct a fresh secret ballot on the confidence motion moved by Palaniswami by allowing all MLAs without the eviction of any of them, under the observation of a monitoring committee consisting of the secretary to the governor, the chief secretary and an official from Election Commission of India.

This report in The Hindu quoted Stalin as saying -

There was total mala fide and arbitrary exercise of power by the Speaker of the Assembly. The members of the legislature belonging to the AIADMK party were illegally detained against their will, brought in vehicles arranged by the supporters of the Chief Minister in order to vote in his favour. As this was against the accepted democratic principles and against the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India even for voting in the general elections,

The petition went on to say that the speaker illegally evicted DMK members and thereby denied them the right to vote.

Puthiya Thalaimurai reports that Stalin is currently participating at a hunger strike in Tiruchy along with leaders like Thiruchy Siva and former minister K.N Nehru. Other leaders will also take part in the day long hunger strike throughout the state to protest against the government.

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