Eight dissident DMDK MLAs on Sunday resigned from the Tamil Nadu Assembly and left party leader Vijayakanth stripped of his status as Opposition leader in the House.
Speaker P. Dhanapal, who accepted the resignations, declared that Vijayakanth has lost his Opposition Leader status since the strength of his party in the Assembly has now come down to 20 from 28.
DMDK founder Vijayakanth no longer meets the "qualification" to be recognised as the Opposition Leader under relevant Assembly rules, the Speaker's Secretariat said in a release.
Further, with no other party having the 24 members stipulated for the same, "nobody else can be recognised as Opposition Leader", the release said quoting the Speaker.
DMK has 23 MLAs in the 234-member House.
The DMDK MLAs who tendered their resignation are—C. Arun Pandian, M. Arun Subramanian, K. Pandiarajan, K. Tamil Azhagan, S. Michael Rayappan, R. Sundarrajan, T. Suresh Kumar and R. Santhi.
Actor-politician Vijayakanth, who made his Assembly debut in 2006 as the then lone DMDK MLA, became Opposition Leader after the 2011 elections, when his party bagged 29 seats.
The party's senior leader and former Alandur MLA Panrutty S Ramachandran had resigned in 2014 before joining AIADMK, bringing down DMDK's strength to 28.
Though he had joined hands with the ruling AIADMK for the 2011 elections, Vijayakanth had later walked out of the alliance after a spat with Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on the floor of the Assembly.
The latest development comes as the state prepares for Assembly polls later this year. DMDK is being wooed by the DMK-Congress combine, BJP and the four-party bloc, People's Welfare Front (PWF), for striking an electoral pact.