As the battle for chief ministership between O. Panneerselvam and V.K. Sasikala gets drawn out, all eyes are on Tamil Nadu’s Acting Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao.
One of the options for Mr. Rao to end the battle is to convene a floor test and ask the contenders to prove the majority.
The Tamil Nadu Assembly has 235 members, with one nominated member. After the demise of Jayalalithaa, the strength is 234. The Speaker normally does not participate in motions or votes.
Here is how a floor test will proceed:
The Speaker will convene a special session of the House to discuss the confidence motion moved by a member.
The floor leader, i.e., the leader of ruling party, moves a Motion of Confidence, seeking if the House has confidence in the government.
The Assembly has certain procedures to be followed for calling a motion. “A matter requiring the decision of the Assembly is brought forward by means of a motion proposed by a Member and a question stated or read out by the Speaker thereon,” states the Assembly procedure.
The motion will be proposed by a Member of the House, and seconded by another. Members can participate in the debate with prior approval from the Speaker. The Speaker will allot duration for each participating Member based on various criteria such as strength of the party.
Speaker will also allow Members to speak once again if he/she wishes to reply to a question.
On the conclusion of the debate, the Speaker will put the question to the vote. This is called Division. There are three ways to register the vote: voice vote, counting the heads or roll call method.
A voice vote is when the Speaker puts the motion to vote and decides it by voices. The Speaker would ask those in favour to say ‘Aye’ and those against say ‘No’. The Speaker would weigh both the voices and give a decision.
If members are unhappy with Speaker’s decision, another round of voice voting will take place. If still unsatisfied, the counting of heads will take place.
The Tamil Nadu Assembly does not have electronic voting system like the Parliament. Hence, the Speaker would request the Members in favour of the motion and those against to separately stand up and would manually count them.
Alternatively, the Speaker can opt for roll call method.
The Speaker will first call the members, block by block, who are in favour of the motion and those who are against the motion to stand up, and the Secretary will mark their votes by calling out the names of each Member.
After recording the names of Members, and whether in favour or against the motion, the Speaker will call those who are neutral to the motion to stand up. The Secretary will mark their votes also.
Before the announcement of results, members can challenge the vote of a member on grounds such as personal, pecuniary or direct interest in the matter of the House. The Speaker’s decision would be final.
In case the House divides equally, the Speaker gets to cast his vote.