Chennai // The new chief minister of India’s Tamil Nadu state won a confidence vote in the regional assembly on Saturday, hours after legislators came to blows over a bitterly fought leadership contest.
Shouting slogans, legislators disrupted the assembly ahead of the vote, ripping out microphones and breaking chairs as Edappadi Palanisamy, who was recently sworn in as Tamil Nadu’s chief minister, sought a majority for his government in a bid to cement his position.
The death of Mr Palanisamy’s predecessor Jayalalithaa Jayaram triggered a weeks-long battle over succession, with her close aide Sasikala hauled off to prison for graft just as she was on the verge of becoming chief minister of the southern state, clearing the way for Mr Palanisamy to take the reins on Thursday.
The 63-year-old secured his majority by winning 122 votes in the 234-member state assembly on Saturday, hours after the speaker, who was whisked away to safety by marshals, evicted close to 90 opposition politicians for disrupting proceedings.
Members of the opposition ripped papers, toppled tables and threw microphones to demand a secret ballot that would potentially allow legislators from the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party to switch sides, according to media reports.
Television footage showed legislators storming the well of the house and manhandling each other, injuring at least one member who was carried out on a stretcher.
After he won the vote Mr Palanisamy, along with scores of his supporters, paid an emotional tribute at Jayalalithaa’s memorial, where he reportedly broke down in tears.
The vote was expected to draw a line under the long tussle for power, but a rival AIADMK politician, O Panneerselvam and his supporters vowed to ramp up their fight to form the government.
“We may have lost the battle today but the war has begun,” Ma Foi K Pandiarajan, the state’s former education minister, told reporters, without elaborating.
Tamil Nadu, one of India’s most prosperous states, was plunged into political crisis following Jayalalithaa’s sudden death in December.
Her close aide Sasikala — a one-time video cassette seller who has never held political office or stood for election — emerged as the heir apparent until she was convicted Tuesday of amassing illegal assets worth $10 million Dh36.7m, barring her from holding office for a decade.
The corruption case dates back to the late 1990s, when Jayalalithaa and Sasikala were accused of profiting from the chief minister’s office and acquiring wealth beyond their income.
They were jointly accused of illegally amassing bungalows, luxury cars, tea estates and vast quantities of gold.
Sasikala had earlier kept several dozen legislators in a resort outside Chennai over fears her opponents’ camp might try to poach them in the battle for succession.