Editor's note: This copy has been updated to reflect the latest developments in the case.
In a relief for the Tamil Nadu government led by Edappadi K. Palaniswami, the Madras High Court has pronounced a split verdict on the disqualification of 18 MLAs of the Tamil Nadu assembly, who belong to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), but have pledged allegiance to the breakaway Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) led by TTV Dhinakaran.
This means that the cases regarding the matter will be sent to a larger bench.
While Chief Justice Indira Banerjee upheld the disqualification of the MLAs, Judge M Sundar set aside the disqualification.
When the case is referred to a larger bench, if the MLAs win the case, the Tamil Nadu government could fall short of a majority in the Vidhan Sabha.
Dinakaran reacting to the news of the split verdict said, "Let the final verdict come. TTV Dinakaran as an independent MLA will call for trust vote. The other 18 MLAs are still in AIADMK and they only want a change of chief minister, this government's days are numbered."
Addressing the rumours that some MLAs were planning to jump ship, he said, "All of us are together. Do not believe rumours that some will jump ship. The party will only prosper and function well under Chinnamma (Sasikala. We are fighters. We will fight for justice."
Here's how it all began:
When J Jayalalithaa died of cardiac arrest in December 2016, her party, the AIADMK was thrown into disarray. The party had won a historic second consecutive term under Jayalalithaa's leadership in May 2016. Jaya, true to her image of being an authoritarian leader, had not groomed a successor.
Immediately after her passing, O Panneerselvam was appointed the chief minister and was sworn in in the wee hours of December 6, 2016. But rumblings within the party began shortly thereafter. Jayalalithaa's close aide and confidante VK Sasikala, who had managed party affairs during the chief minister's illness, wanted to become the chief minister.
By December 31, 2016, she was voted in as the general secretary of the party, the post previously held by Jayalalithaa. Her nephew TTV Dhinakaran was appointed the deputy general secretary.
O Panneerselvam resigned as chief minister on February 5, 2017, exhorting 'Chinnamma' (Sasikala's moniker meaning Little Mother) to take over the chair. Sasikala staked claim for the chief minister's chair with then Governor Vidyasagar Rao.
Two days later, a smarting Panneerselvam meditated in front of Jayalalithaa's memorial in Chennai's Marina Beach for 40 minutes. A public outburst followed.
"I was forced to resign as chief minister," he said to waiting reporters. Just two days earlier, he had cited personal reasons for his resignation.
Around 10 MLAs and a number of MPs went over to the OPS faction. Sasikala by then had to face the verdict in a 20-year-old corruption case that had reached the Supreme Court. On February 14, 2017, the apex court sent Sasikala packing to jail, upholding her conviction and a four year sentence in prison. Her sister in law Ilavarasi, another nephew VN Sudhagaran too were convicted.
As Sasikala headed to Bengaluru jail, she swiftly appointed her loyalist Edappadi K Palaniswamy as the Chief Minister and TTV Dhinakaran was to handle party affairs.
Once again things went out of hand. MLAs on the EPS-Dhinakaran (Edappadi Palaniswamy) side were sequestered in a resort close to Puducherry, so that they would not be lured over to the OPS (O Panneerselvam) side. When it came to a confidence vote in Assembly, the EPS faction sailed through.
In a sudden political U-turn, EPS and OPS began to make noises about coming together and getting rid of TTV Dhinakaran. By 21 August 2017, the two "brothers" came together and joined hands.
The next day itself, a furious TTV Dhinakaran hit back hard. His supporters – 18 MLAs – submitted a letter to the Governor stating that they were withdrawing support to the Chief Minister but not to the party. The Speaker immediately disqualified all of them. TTV's 18 MLAs moved the Madras High Court terming the disqualification as illegal. The case has finally come up for orders at 1 pm today.