Chennai: The Madras High court order upholding the disqualification of 18 Tamil Nadu MLAs will now effectively bring down the voting strength in the 234-member House to 213.
This is because out of 234 two legislators have passed away –A K Bose and M Karunanidhi – this brings the number down to 232 and reducing one for the speaker would bring the number to 231 in a vote. Now, a further reduction of 18 disqualified MLAs will bring the number down to 213.
This would mean a clear majority requirement would be 107 members, till by-elections are held to the 20 vacant seats. Out of 107, the DMK has 97 MLAs and there is no clear calculation of the possible rebels within the AIADMK, it is argued that the EPS administration only has the categorical support of around 102 MLAs.
So, in the case of an immediate floor test in the present situation there is no certainty in the numbers the ruling dispensation has. It may scrape through with floor and MLA management, but it is not certain that this situation will remain so till by-elections are held to 20 seats (18 seats vacant after disqualification and 2 vacant because the representatives passed away).
In the event of there being no clear verdict in the floor test then the House will have to be dissolved and that could mean an early Assembly election in the state, along with the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. This is a possibility that many political leaders anticipate. But, this would largely depend on the Governor who faces accusations of brazenly supporting the ruling dispensation in the state.
Now, if the EPS government does manage to survive an immediate floor test then the next test would be when by-elections are held for all the 20 seats. This could be held anytime between December and the Lok Sabha poll schedule, but it’s most likely to be with the Lok Sabha polls.
In this case, if the DMK sweeps the by polls it could even get a clear majority in the House, if not come very close to it. If that happens then it could throw open enormous possibilities. This will also be a test for MK Stalin’s leadership and the DMK’s ability to win an election under him.
But if the DMK fails and if TTV Dinakaran and his followers manage to wrest their seats again it would mean the end of an EPS government and a different AIADMK faction, likely to be Dinakaran, staking a claim for power. This would also establish TTV Dinakaran as the most powerful leader and perhaps successor to J Jayalalithaa.
Given the outcome of the RK Nagar by- election, which Dinakaran swept, it is unlikely that the ruling AIADMK leadership has the ability to put up an electoral fight. It must be understood that the ruling party is surviving on the remnants of the victory J Jayalalithaa delivered before her demise in 2016 and seems to have very little electoral appeal.
Another possibility if the by polls do not throw up a clear verdict and several players split the seats. Then the political unstability would continue in the State and perhaps an early assembly elections needs to be called.
These by polls to 20 seats, which is the only certain outcome of the High Court order, would also test the electoral prospects of new entrants like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. In effect, they would a litmus test for Tamil Nadu and an indicator of the future. However, if the Supreme Court is invoked against the High Court order then it could leave the issue hanging till a decision from the apex court.
This is why the Madras HC order does not end the political flux in Tamil Nadu. It may be a small breather for the EPS administration, but does not give the ruling dispensation any certainty over its longevity. It has to survive a floor test first, then a by-election as it desperately tries to avoid a general election.
Finally, it is only a fresh Assembly election in Tamil Nadu that could end the uncertainty in the state.