Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, a loyalist of V K Sasikala, will seek a trust vote in the Assembly on Saturday and barring any last-minute hitches the new AIADMK government is expected to sail through.
On the eve of the vote, the Palaniswami camp on Friday got a jolt when one of its MLAs R Natraj, a former state DGP, said he would vote against the chief minister's motion of confidence.
Natraj's move has reduced Palaniswami's stated support to 123 members in a House of 234.
The floor test in the Assembly will be the first such exercise the state will witness in about 30 years.
"I am constrained to vote against the motion of confidence to be moved by the Edappadi K Palaniswami government, I have interacted with people in my constituency and their considered and overwhelming opinion is that the government of O Panneerselvam should continue and I have to reflect this opinion of the people in the Assembly," Natraj, a Mylapore MLA, told PTI.
To a question, Nataraj said he does not consider this as a confidence vote, but a 'conscience vote.'
Before Natraj announced his decision, Palaniswami has claimed the support of 124 MLAs and asserted his government will stay while his rival and predecessor O Panneerselvam has vowed to continue his fight against Sasikala and her family "till the time Amma (Jayalalithaa) regime is restored."
Though Panneerselvam now has the backing of 11 MLAs, experts feel he can jolt the government if he is able to wean away a few legislators from the Palaniswami camp and render it a minority government.
AIADMK has 134 MLAs in the 234-member legislative assembly.
Palaniswami will be seeking the confidence vote in line with Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao asking him to do so on Thursday while inviting him to form the government.
Though the new government was given 15 days time to prove the majority in the House, Palaniswami, a known loyalist of AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala, opted to do it within two days.
In fact, many MLAs supporting Sasikala are still staying at the resort in Koovathur, about 80 km from Chennai, and are scheduled to leave in the morning on Saturday to be on time for the trust vote at 11 am.