Chennai: Tamil Nadu Assembly today witnessed bedlam when DMK members gheraoed Speaker P Dhanapal seeking secret ballot for the trust vote, who subsequently left the House with marshals escorting him, stalling the proceedings.
Amid scenes of ruckus, they also wanted adjournment of the House to facilitate the legislators to go back to their constituencies and seek the opinion of people before they could cast their vote.
As Dhanapal was pushed and shoved in the commotion, Assembly marshals stepped in and safely escorted him out with no clarity on whether the House has been adjourned or not.
For a very brief distance, in order to help the Speaker come down from his elevated podium, he was physically carried by the Assembly watch and ward staff.
The House met again shortly thereafter, similar scenes were witnessed with opposition DMK members pressing for secret ballot.
The Speaker rejected their demand, saying there was no provision for secret ballot and asked the Chief Minister to move the confidence motion which he duly did.
At this again ruckus broke out in the House, prompting the Speaker to order eviction of DMK MLAs.
But as the DMK MLAs resisted the attempts by the House marshals to remove them, the Speaker left the House saying the proceedings would resume at 3 PM.
Earlier, as the House met to facilitate the vote of confidence by Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswami, opposition benches and the O Panneerselvam camp demanded a secret ballot.
Besides Panneerselvam, his supporters S Semmalai and former minister K Pandiarajan, Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin, Congress Legislature Party leader K R Ramasamy, IUML member Abubacker and Mylapore member R Nataraj pressed for voting by secret ballot.
They also said the legislators should be allowed to visit their constituencies and seek the opinion of the people before casting their vote.
After listening to the views of all members, Dhanapal said MLAs could cast their vote in a free and fair manner.
He assured security to all the members.
However, DMK members continued to voice their demand and gathered around the Speaker’s podium, repeatedly raising slogan “adjourn the House”.
Several opposition members stood up around Dhanapal and surrounded his chair from all sides. Some of them were seen throwing away the table and microphone placed in front of the Speaker’s chair, leading to commotion and tumult.
The chairs and table of Assembly Secretary A M P Jamaludeen in front of Dhanapal was also taken away and put up in a corner by some DMK members.
Papers and books were thrown at random, across the Treasury benches from the opposition side.
A member was seen removing a bell on the table of the Speaker.
While ruling AIADMK members including the Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues sat through the unruly scenes silently, DMK members continued slogan shouting.
Dhanapal repeatedly asked them if their action was fair and said it was not proper. However, nothing much could be heard in the din.
At one point of time, DMK members came shoulder to shoulder with the Speaker and demanded that he adjourn the House immediately.
Soon after the Speaker left, Chief Minister Palaniswami, and state Ministers including Dindigul C Srinivasan, K A Sengottaiyan, and P Thangamani also left.
DMK and AIADMK members continued to stay put though Stalin and Duriamurugan moved out of the House after Palaniswami left.
Hundreds of police personnel were deployed in the Assembly complex to prevent any untoward incident.
Palaniswami, elected AIADMK Legislature Party leader after predecessor and party chief Sasikala was convicted by Supreme Court in the disproportionate assets case, was sworn-in Chief Minister on February 14 by Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao who asked him to prove his majority within 15 days.
Earlier in the day, the rebel O Panneerselvam camp got a boost when Coimbatore North MLA Arun Kumar announced his decision to abstain from voting after yesterday’s decision by Natraj to vote against the government.
With the decision of the two, the Palaniswami camp is left with 122 MLAs in the 234-member House with one vacancy.
Ailing DMK supremo M Karunanidhi was not present in the House.
As soon as the House assembled for the day, Semmalai stood up and asked Speaker Dhanapal to take up his privilege notice over security of legislators, which was supported by Stalin and his deputy Duraimurugan.
Dhanapal told them that trust vote was the agenda of the day and asked them to resume their seats. Stalin, however, insisted that the Speaker hear them out.
Stalin and Duraimurugan told Dhanapal that their car was stopped in the name of frisking by police.
“We had to walk for a kilometre to reach the House.
Legislators should not be treated like those held for ransom,” Duraimurugan said and demanded action against the police officer responsible for it.
While Dhanapal said he would order an inquiry, Duraimurugan demanded a commitment from him that action will be taken.
Semmalai also made an allegation which was expunged by Dhanapal, who said he could speak about it only if his notice was admitted.
Panneerselvam said “atrocious” things had happened in the past 15 days and alleged MLAs were kept confined in a resort at Koovathur.
MLA Arun Kumar, who has decided to abstain from voting today, called him up over phone and said he had gone to Coimbatore from the resort and wanted protection, he said.
“What is the reason for confining them ?” he asked and said legislators were brought straight to the assembly from the resort after putting them up there for several days.
When the Speaker told him not to talk politics, Panneerselvam said the MLAs should visit their respective constituencies, seek the opinion of people and then cast their votes only then their votes will be independent and fair.
He strongly demanded a secret ballot for trust vote as had happened in the case of Bihar when Rabri Devi was the Chief Minister years ago.
Supporting Panneerselvam, Stalin said trust vote should be held in an independent atmosphere so that legislators could cast their votes in a free and fair manner.
He also spoke against confining legislators in the resort.
Ramasamy (Congress) said holding up legislators in a “single place,” was wrong. Abubacker (IUML) too backed the demand and sought a secret ballot.
Nataraj said he was not siding with any faction and asked legislators to go to their constituencies, listen to the people and then take a call on voting.
Former minister Pandiarajan said he was threatened with an ‘acid attack’ and sought action from the Speaker.
DMK member Anbazhagan said people were against “proxy” rule and backed Stalin’s demand.
When Speaker Dhanapal said the matter relating to confining of legislators had already been taken up by the High Court, Duraimurugan asked whether the trust vote could be held under such circumstances.
When the House resumed at 1 PM, opposition members, including Stalin, were allowed to speak by the Chair.
They again reiterated their demand for a secret ballot, contending that there was a provision for such a voting, or adjournment of the House for a week.
Stalin also read out from the Rule book and said the House can be adjourned in the event of proceedings being disrupted.
The Speaker, however, ruled out both the options, saying the Governor had asked the confidence vote to be taken today and this has to be done.
Earlier, Dhanapal recalled the incidents in the morning session and said his shirt was torn and he was insulted.
Displaying the torn portion of the shirt, he said he was ready to tolerate and move forward.
Dhanapal thanked Stalin for expressing regret later in his chamber for the DMK MLAs’ conduct to which stalin said he was even prepared for an apology.
However, Stalin alleged that the Speaker tore the shirt himself, “deliberately to do politics”, to which the latter shot back saying there was no need for him to do that.
Intervening, Panneerselvam also regretted what happened to the Speaker but insisted that the MLAs be allowed to visit their constituencies and return after a week when the vote of confidence can be taken up.
The Speaker then insisted that he will not go for a secret ballot or adjourn the House and summoned Palaniswami to move the resolution, which he duly complied with.
Soon, the DMK MLAs were up on their feet again and started raising slogans following which the Speaker summoned the marshals to evict “DMK friends” from the Assembly.
This prompted angry response from the opposition MLAs with some of them seen engaging in a heated debate with the Speaker as well as the marshals.
Some MLAs were seen climbing atop the tables of the Chief Minister as well as the senior Ministers seated in the front row.
A tug of war ensued for a while as the marshals attempted to evict the agitated DMK MLAs but the latter strongly resisted the bid, leading to the Speaker leaving the House while announcing that proceedings will resume at 3 PM.