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Former AIADMK leader Sedapatti Muthiah passes away

Print edition : Sep 21, 2022 T+T-

Former AIADMK leader Sedapatti Muthiah passes away

Sedapatti Muthiah.

Sedapatti Muthiah.

His political career ended following a technical error in Parliament.

Sedapatti Muthiah, perhaps the only Indian politician whose career literally ended because of a technical error while recording his vote when he was a Member of Parliament in 1999, died after a brief illness at a private hospital in Madurai. He was 76.

Muthiah, who broke away from the DMK in 1972, when matinee idol M.G. Ramachandran left the party to form the ADMK, was in the spotlight when his vote went unrecorded during a confidence motion moved by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999. His career in the AIADMK literally ended that day.

Although he joined the DMK later, in 2006, and was given a ceremonial post, he was never in the limelight again.

1999 fiasco

It was a very close call during the 1999 confidence motion: AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa had made up her mind to teach Prime Minister Vajpayee a lesson, and she was the most sought after politician in New Delhi at that time. She even boasted that she would help form the next government at the Centre.

Jayalalithaa directed all her MPs to vote against the confidence motion. In the end, the screen showed that Muthiah had abstained, although it was later clarified by Parliament that it was a technical error.

The Vajpayee government fell: 270 members voted against the government while 269 voted for it. In the general election that followed, the Vajpayee government came back to power, with the help of regional parties, including the DMK.

Political career

Muthiah was elected in 1977, 1980, 1984, and 1991 to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. During 1991 to 1996, during Jayalalithaa’s first term as Chief Minister, he, like all others in the AIADMK, bent over backwards to please the Chief Minister. Some Assembly traditions were thrown out of the window in this quest, as he competed with other Ministers to be in her good books. In fact, Jayalalithaa was so impressed by his performance that during a wedding in Muthiah’s family she described him as “the embodiment of loyalty”.

He was elected to the Lok Sabha twice and served as Union Minister for Surface Transport during his second stint. He resigned from the post following a case in the Madras High Court.

He is survived by his wife, Sakunthala, two sons and two daughters. His younger son, Manimaran, is the Madurai South district secretary in the DMK.