RK Nagar bypoll: History with Jayalalithaa makes EC rejecting Vishal's nomination hypocritical

Last year, it had allowed the late AIADMK chief's thumbprints in an electoral form without adequate cross-checks.

 |  5-minute read |   06-12-2017
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On October 27 last year, a very unwell J Jayalalithaa, who was reportedly not in a position to sign because of a swollen thumb, affixed her thumb impression on "Form B" issued to AIADMK candidates ahead of the by-elections to Thanjavur, Aravakurichi and Thiruparankundram. Her thumb impression was certified by Dr Balaji, who was then professor of minimal access surgery at the Madras Medical College.

He wrote: "Since the signatory has undergone tracheostomy recently and has an inflamed right hand, she is temporarily unable to affix her signature. Hence, she has affixed her left thumb impression on her own in my presence."

No other political party or independent candidate raised an objection and the Election Commission too did not think it necessary to verify the genuineness of Jayalalithaa's thumb impression by checking with her fingerprints that would be part of the UIDAI database. Nor did it ask for a video recording of the moment when Jayalalithaa affixed her thumb impression to know that she was aware of what she was doing.

vishal-body_120617063927.jpgActor Vishal (Credit: PTI photo)

The EC did not bother to connect the dots when just four days after he had certified Jayalalithaa's thumb impression, Dr Balaji was appointed as the member secretary of Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu (TRANSTAN), a key government body to regulate and monitor organ transplant and cadaver organ harvesting.

A petition filed by an NGO, Change India, alleging that the appointment was a case of quid pro quo is being heard by the Madras High court.

What's more, during the income tax raids on health minister health minister C Vijayabaskar in April, among the documents seized was a curious entry of Rs 5 lakh "given to Dr Balaji for expenses - HM's instructions". This raised eyebrows, making people wonder why the doctor was given the amount. Balaji denied having received any money from the minister.

Which is why the enthusiasm with which the EC has approached the Vishal case, leaves one to wonder if "a higher authority", as the actor has alleged, is dictating the course of events.

In this case in the RK Nagar by-election, two of the 10 people who proposed Vishal's name, walked into the office of the returning officer to tell him their signatures were forged. Curiously enough, they did so during a strategic gap of 10 minutes when the actor and his team had stepped out for tea.

In his defence, Vishal said the woman, Sumathi, and her husband, Velu, were abducted and intimidated. He has also produced the recording of a phone conversation to back on his claim.

In the conversation, Velu claims AIADMK candidate E Madhusudhanan men took him away, bribed him with a wad of Rs 2,000 notes (which he claims he did not accept) and forced the couple to claim Sumathi's signature was forged.

Now, it is obvious from the conversation (whose authenticity has not been independently verified) that Velu knows Vishal well. It is also apparent that Sumathi was indeed one of the signatories, but subsequently changed her version to say her signature was forged. It is rather surprising that the EC has not thought it necessary to order a probe into the allegations of kidnapping, threats and bribery.

Or since Vishal's papers have been rejected on the basis of an allegation of forgery, book him under relevant charges of trying to cheat the system.

The EC acted after two independent candidates complained of forgery. It did not bother to find out how these two men zeroed in on two of the 10 proposers to allege that their signatures were forged. Was the same scrutiny of checking veracity of signatures carried out for all the other 144 applicants who had filed their nominations?

The EC says while the nomination papers of every candidate are put in the public domain, the EC does not check on every list of proposers unless another candidate raises an objection. Which is what has happened in Vishal's case.

The EC's mandate is to conduct a free and fair election. It has its task cut out especially after the manner in which the RK Nagar bypoll was rescinded in April. Eight months ago, there was rampant bribing of voters by the political heavyweights, with each vote reportedly being bought for Rs 4,000.

Just last month, the EC removed as many as 45,000 bogus voters from the list. The number is critical because the winning margin of Jayalalithaa in the 2016 Assembly election was 39,000 votes. The DMK still claims the existence of 5,100 outsiders in the voters' list and wants these non-residents to be removed as well. But it is unlikely any more clean-up will be done.

Money and muscle power has always been the dark underbelly of elections in Tamil Nadu. With the political stakes so high in RK Nagar, it is all coming together, leaving Chennai in a state of stink.

There is another conspiracy theory doing the rounds. That this entire drama has been scripted by Vishal to create a buzz ahead of his Pongal release Irumbu Thirai (Iron curtain), which is also produced by him.

Also read: RK Nagar bypoll: Why the battle for Jayalithaa's legacy in Tamil Nadu is messed up

Writer

TS Sudhir TS Sudhir @iamtssudhir

The writer is a journalist.

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