Chennai: The long time demand of the Leader of the Opposition, Edappadi K Palaniswami, to have the seat of former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam changed and the AIADMK’s deputy leader of the opposition R B Udhayakumar be allotted the seat may soon be acceded to as the Chief Minister M K Stalin urged Speaker M Appavu to consider that request on Tuesday.
Raising the issue during question hour, Palaniswami said that his party’s long time demand of changing the seating arrangement had not been met despite repeated requests after the party elected a new deputy Speaker.
Responding to that, the Chief Minister urged the Speaker to reconsider the demand of the Leader of the Opposition, which had been rejected on the ground that the seating arrangement was the Speaker’s prerogative by referring to former Speaker Dhanapal’s response to several requests made to him in the previous regime.
Palaniswami and the AIADMK had been insisting on changing Panneerselvam’s seat as it was on the same twin sofa in which the Leader of the Opposition sits. Since Panneerselvam was chosen by the AIADMK as the deputy leader of the party soon after the elections, both the leaders were given seats in the same sofa.
But once the two leaders fell out and Panneerselvam was expelled from the AIADMK and was stripped of his Deputy Leader of Opposition post, the party made the appeal to the Speaker to accommodate their new deputy leader Udhayakumar in the sofa. But the Speaker declined to do it and said that his decision was final, citing rulings by Dhanapal during the AIADMK rule.
The refusal to shift Panneerselvam’s seat in the Assembly caused embarrassment to him and Palaniswami as both the leaders, who were at loggerheads, would sit facing the opposite direction in the House, trying to keep as much distance from each other.
Though the AIADMK leaders would call on the Speaker during every single session and give a representation, the Speaker dug in his heels and refused to look into their demand for so long. However, the situation might change and the Speaker might have to identify another seat for Panneerselvam, keeping the dignity of his stature as former Chief Minister in mind.
Whether the Chief Minister’s intervention into the dispute between the Speaker and the AIADMK had anything to do with Panneerselvam openly drifting towards the BJP, as some people speculate, or not, the Speaker is likely to look into the long time demand of the AIADMK soon.
However, it is not known how Paneerselvam, who had occupied the exalted seat next to the Leader of the Opposition, would react to the latest development since he had seemingly no complaints so far on sitting in the same sofa with his beta noir.