The Rediff Special/A Ganesh Nadar
TOMORROW, October 31, will be a dark day in the by-lanes of Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin.
That's no star-speak. Neither is it loose-tongue.
What it is, instead, is an educated guess. Based on facts, and a look at the past.
Thanks to then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and the 73rd and 74th amendment to the Constitution he brought about Panchayat Raj, municipal elections are held regularly all over the country, under a three-tier model.
The Panchayat president and his council members are elected directly by the people. That process is already over in Tamil Nadu, on March 16 and 18.
The union and district chairmen will be elected on October 31. Not directly, but by elected union and district councillors.
Trouble is, once elected the councillors become auction centres.
"It's like buying MLAs and MPs on a smaller scale," says Tuticorin District Collector Kumar Jayant.
And with such horse trading comes violence -- as the past has proved here.
A candidate was buried neck deep in sand to encourage his withdrawal from the councillor's election. Another was reportedly made to retire at gunpoint. And a third, it is alleged, was given Rs 50,000 to stay at home.
"Sometimes it is coercion, sometimes money," says Inspector Peer Basha of Ottapidaram. "But we cannot do anything unless the affected person complains."
Basha says he saw the newly elected councillors being taken away in vans on October 22 - but what can the police do if there are no complaints?
"We cannot deal with fear psychosis," Collector Kumar agrees. "We can deal with complaints only. No complaint, no action."
Kumar was satisfied the election for councillors and Panchayat presidents went well. "Everybody says this is a notorious district, but repolling was ordered only in five booths," he says.
Daniel Raj, Tamil Maanila Congress district chairman, denies that guns are being used to coerce councillors. That is against the Congress culture, he says -- but, yes, votes may have been bought.
"See, if there's somebody waiting to take money," he tells you, "then there's always somebody to give it."
Simple, isn't it? And if there is somebody wanting violence, there will always be somebody to oblige him.
We will know tomorrow.
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