The political situation in Tamil Nadu is no less than a suspense thriller as of Tuesday night.
At least 20 Cabinet Ministers of Tamil Nadu – who were, until this morning at least, supporting the Sasikala faction of AIADMK – have now come out to say that neither Sasikala nor Dhinakaran will be allowed to continue with the party.
They have also announced that Sasikala is not the general secretary of the party – something they swore to just two months ago.
So an apparently large number of ministers and MLAs, including Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, have unceremoniously dropped the Sasikala clan, but that is not the end of the TN political drama.
The ministers did not make any mention of the merger with the OPS camp while making the announcement about dropping Dhinakaran and Sasikala, and sources say that this means that the state just witnessed the birth of another faction of the AIADMK – Team EPS.
So what about the ‘merger’ that everyone was talking about through Tuesday? Apparently, the talks have not started yet since both Edappadi Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam want the Chief Minister’s chair in Tamil Nadu.
A source in the OPS camp told TNM No talks have started yet. As far we we are concerned, Edappadi Palaniswami has created his own faction and they have disowned Sasikala and TTV. That’s not enough for us. They need to accept OPS as the next chief minister or there won’t be a merger.
The source also told TNM that if Palaniswami’s faction did not agree to OPS becoming the chief minister again, then there are chances of a snap poll in the state. "Edapadi believes he has the support of 122 MLAs with him. But even if 10 MLAs stay back with TTV Dhinakaran, there will be snap polls," he said.
In politics, especially when a government is at stake, it all comes down to numbers. With technically three factions in the AIADMK now – Team OPS, Team EPS, and Team TTV/Sasikala – does Edappadi Palaniswami have the MLAs to keep his chief ministership intact if he doesn’t merge with the OPS team?
Does TTV Dhinakaran have the numbers to pull down the government or even pose a credible threat? His camp says he has around 25 MLAs with him, the number could be much lesser in reality though.
In the Tamil Nadu Assembly, there are 234 seats. Count out Jayalalithaa, who passed away in December, and the Speaker of the Assembly Dhanapal, and the number of people who would be voting would come down to 232.
Considering DMK chief Karunanidhi has been unwell for several weeks now, he is unlikely to be present in the Assembly in case of a Trust Vote.
So it all comes down to 231 MLAs – so the halfway mark would stand at 116.
The AIADMK (all factions included) has 132 of these MLAs. Team OPS has 11 of them, including former chief minister Panneerselvam himself.
While Team EPS has claimed the support of 122 MLAs in the party (including the Speaker Dhanapal), if TTV Dhinakaran manages to retain the support of at least 10 MLAs, the Chief Minister -– with 111 MLAs who can vote on the floor of the Assembly – will fall at least 5 MLAs short of the halfway mark.
So unless the desertion of the Sasikala camp is complete – there is little that EPS can do to save his CM’s chair if he does not merge with the Panneerselvam camp.
Can he manage to hold on to his MLAs? Will Tamil Nadu see another Koovathoor – this time orchestrated by the Chief Minister himself? The jury is out.
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute)