The run-up to RK Nagar by-poll, as always, seems to have generated more excitement than the actual election outcome.
The Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu - that fell vacant following the death of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa last December - is finally set to go to polls on December 21. The by-poll, which was initially scheduled for April 12, was postponed by the Election Commission following allegations of rampant bribing of voters and other irregularities. Earlier, the EC even had to freeze the AIADMK party name and symbol (two leaves) due to too many claimants following major rifts within the party.
Now that the residents are finally looking forward to the election day in the VIP constituency, more controversies have cropped up keeping the drama and suspense alive.
The nominations of actor Vishal (who is fighting as an independent) and Deepa Jayakumar, Jayalalithaa's niece, were earlier cancelled by the EC. While Vishal’s papers were cancelled after two of the nominees mentioned in his affidavit claimed not to have signed the papers, the EC rejected Deepa’s nomination saying that one of the forms - Form 26 (I) - had discrepancies.
Following the developments, AIADMK opponents have started crying foul.
Opposition leader MK Stalin, CPI and VCK have accused the Election Commission of being "hand in glove" with the AIADMK in rejecting the nomination papers of actor Vishal. “The situation in RK Nagar shows the high-handedness of the ruling government. The EC should immediately take action on this issue. This incident shows that the returning officer will act only as per the ruling government. EC should intervene. In light of Tuesday's (December 5) event, the returning officer should be transferred," says MK Stalin, DMK working president.
The cancellation of Vishal’s nomination added to the high drama that the constituency has been witnessing for more than a year now. In his defence, the actor initially produced before the EC an audio recording of his nominee confessing that he was threatened by Madusudanan (representing the EPS-OPS faction) supporters. Apart from presenting the audio recording, the returning officer's decision also created a lot of confusion.
Vishal, after a meeting with the returning officer, posted a series of tweets that explains the change in scenario:
Democracy at its lowest low !!Disheartening to hear that the nomination made by me was initially accepted & later when I left, has been announced as invalid.#PoliticalGame— Vishal (@VishalKOfficial) December 5, 2017
To the people, I look upto, Hon @narendramodi & Hon @rashtrapatibhvn I am Vishal,I hope u r aware of wats happening in the RK Nagar Election process in Chennai. My nomination was accepted & later rejected. Totally unfair. I bring this to your notice & I hope justice prevails.— Vishal (@VishalKOfficial) December 6, 2017
Still awaiting Democracy to lift its head up again....God save my beloved country from this anarchy !!#JusticeDelayedIsJusticeDenied— Vishal (@VishalKOfficial) December 7, 2017
As time passes by, Dheepan and Sumathi, who proposed my nomination are not traceable. I'm very much worried about their safety & security....Whether I Win or Lose, Democracy truly Lost !!— Vishal (@VishalKOfficial) December 7, 2017
While the Vishal episode continues to unfold, there is more drama in store for the state on December 21. The verdict on the 2G spectrum allocation scam, which involves senior DMK members A Raja and Kanimozhi, is also slated to be announced. And that's not all, after being pulled up by the Delhi High Court for not filing a supplementary chargesheet against TTV Dhinakaran in the case of attempt to bribe the EC for allotment of the party symbol, the Delhi Police has decided to file it on December 21.
Apsara Reddy, spokesperson of the TTV Dhinakaran faction of the AIADMK, feels this is part of the ruling EPS-OPS faction's conspiracy against her leader.
“This is a way of cracking down on political opponents and it reeks of political indecency and vendetta. It is a shame that the Centre and state are ignoring the interests of the people. They are scared of the growing popularity of madam Sasikala and TTV. And people can see through it,” claims Reddy.
A much-dejected Deepa Jayakumar too feels a major conspiracy game is being played out. “There has been foul play. My nomination papers have been tampered with. One of the ruling AIADMK leader had called and threatened me and said if I go ahead with the nomination it will be cancelled,” says Jayakumar.
While the political parties and candidates seem desperate to win the tug-of-war, the future of RK Nagar still appears uncertain.