Even as the 'status quo' in Tamil Nadu politics looks set to continue after the Madras High Court on Thursday referred to another bench the disqualification of 18 'rebel' AIADMK MLAs, ousted party leader T.T.V. Dhinakaran declared the fight to topple the Edapadi K. Palaniswami government would continue in a 'stronger' way.
Dhinakaran's supporters declared he was determined to 'fight to the finish' over the issue of the MLAs' disqualification; moreover, members of his faction claimed Dhinakaran remained intent on trying to fill the 'leadership' vacuum in the state, given the perceived popular disaffection with the Palaniswami government.
Dhinakaran and his supporters were responding to mediapersons after a two-member High Court bench differed on the September 2017 decision of the Assembly speaker to disqualify the 18 MLAs.
While it remains unclear how long a new judge or bench would take to decide on the issue, Dhinakaran declared the 18 MLAs would remain with him irrespective of the circumstances. Reacting to the verdict, Dhinakaran observed the chief justice had given a “different” judgement on a similar case in Puducherry but acted differently with respect to Tamil Nadu. “It's a new experience, legally,” Dhinakaran observed.
A firm verdict upholding the speaker's decision would have meant Dhinakaran's fledgling Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) would have had to prepare for bypolls in 18 constituencies against the entrenched AIADMK faction of Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister Panneerselvam as well as a resurgent DMK.
The fate of the 18 MLAs is decisive to Dhinakaran's political future. Dhinakaran losing this case would also have meant some of his supporters defecting to the ruling camp.
In December 2017, when he won the R.K. Nagar bypoll with a massive margin of 40,707 votes, Dhinakaran stunned the ruling AIADMK faction and even the opposition DMK. Dhinakaran had hoped to put the Palaniswami government on the back foot and bolster his claims to be the 'real heir' to J. Jayalalithaa’s legacy and leader of the AIADMK.
Dhinakaran faces major challenges as the disqualification case continues as the Palaniswami-Panneerselvam duo is expected to target Dhinakaran and his 'rebel' flock. Moreover, dissension in his extended family—Dhinakaran has lost the support of some relatives and his uncle Dhiwakaran revolted against his party—has added to the ousted leader's woes.
However, the growing unpopularity of the Palaniswami government, amid incidents such as the Thoothukudi police firing, may just give Dhinakaran an opportunity to continue pursuing his dream.