Chennai: After several failed attempts, Leader of Opposition Edappadi K Palaniswami on Friday knocked at the doors of the Madras High Court seeking a direction to Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker M Appavu to recognise R B Udhayakumar as the deputy leader of opposition. Palaniswami also asked a direction from the court to allot the seat next to him in the Assembly to Udhayakumar.
The AIADMK Legislature Party in July 2022 removed O Panneerselvam as its deputy leader following his expulsion from the AIADMK and elected Udhayakumar in his place. It also replaced P H Manoj Pandian with ‘Agri’ S S Krishnamurthy as deputy secretary of the Legislature Party. Panneerselvam continues to sit next to Palaniswami in the Assembly.
In his petition, Palaniswami said the decision of the AIADMK Legislature Party was communicated to the Assembly Speaker on several occasions but Appavu neither responded to them nor effected a change in seat allocation.
He also said since the expelled members of the party – OPS, Pandian, and R Vaithilingam – are sitting along with the members of the AIADMK, the party was not able to function effectively in the House. “That the conduct of the 2nd Respondent (Speaker) in refusing to take on record the changes made to the posts in AIADMK Legislature Party has seriously affected the statutory right of the petitioner to function as the Leader of the Opposition,” the petition read.
It also accused the Speaker of having acted in a very biased manner which has scuttled the opposition in the Assembly.
The AIADMK has been raising the issue inside and outside the Tamil Nadu Assembly. On October 10, Palaniswami raised the issue in the Assembly by mentioning that his MLAs have addressed the matter to him several times but to no avail.
Speaker Appavu has time and again clarified that seating arrangement was his prerogative and he was going only by the rules.
AIADMK also wants the Speaker to declare Panneerselvam, Vaithilingam, and Pandian, as unattached members of the AIADMK as their expulsion from the party has been upheld by the Madras High Court.
With the Election Commission of India (ECI) recognising EPS as the general secretary of the AIADMK and ratifying the General Council meeting, the party believed that the Speaker will accept the recommendation of the AIADMK Legislature Party and act accordingly.
Palaniswami, who was joint coordinator of the AIADMK, struck unannounced at his boss Panneerselvam, who was the coordinator as part of a BJP-brokered peace in 2017, in June 2022 and got the bye-laws of the party amended to bring back the general secretary post, which was reserved for Jayalalithaa at the July 11 General Council meeting.
After a legal battle lasting several months, the Supreme Court declared the General Council meeting that appointed Palaniswami as interim general secretary as valid, following which the AIADMK conducted organisational polls. Months later, the ECI followed suit by ratifying the decisions of the GC meeting.
(Published 27 October 2023, 17:10 IST)