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EC acts tough in Tamil Nadu
March 19, 2006 22:24 IST
Buoyed by the successful conduct of free and fair assembly elections in Bihar largely due to its hawk-eyed vigil, the Election Commission has started cracking its whip in Tamil Nadu for the May 8 assembly polls, enforcing the model code of conduct in letter and spirit.
Right from the preparation of electoral rolls, the panel had kept a close watch and when complaints of attempts to 'stuff' the voters list with 'bogus' voters surfaced, it deputed teams of officials to verify bulk application forms.
When it found over 11 lakh applications, submitted in bulk by political parties, were inaccurate, the commission directed the election authorities to reject the forms and instructed them to file cases against those who filed them.
Accordingly, the authorities had filed cases against about a dozen politicians, who were district secretaries of various parties, state ministers and former ministers. Over 40 cases had been filed. The Opposition parties, which lodged the complaints, tasted success but found even some of their members charged with committing the offence.
Again when the final rolls were about to be published, there were complaints of submission of bogus applications. The commission sent teams to look into the allegations and again several applications were rejected.
Graffiti and wall writings would not be seen during the current polls as the commission had already taken steps to erase them when the political parties did not comply with its directive against defacing the walls. The amount spent on this count would be added to the election expenses of parties.
The Commission had also told political parties that it would not allow any graffiti even on private buildings, though they might have been permitted by the owners. All the digital banners, put up at high cost, had already been pulled down.
This had put the parties in a quandary, as they had to think of some other means to reach the people. They have to depend on local television networks, which had reported a mushroom growth in the state. Almost every taluk has its own local television network, which would be exploited by the parties. Besides there are the two major satellite channels - Sun Network and Jaya TV.
Tamil Nadu police got a big beating from the Election Commission when it ordered shifting of Chennai Police Commissioner R Natraj on the basis of a complaint by senior Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader and Union Minister A Raja on the ground that the official had violated the model code of conduct, by praising the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in a press interview.
However, the official got a temporary reprieve with the EC giving an assurance in the Madras High Court that he would not be disturbed till March 23.
The commission's directive against Natraj is expected to instill a sense of fear among the officials as they had been indirectly told that they would be under the scanner of the commission till the completion of the poll process.
The commission, not taking any chances, had instructed the state government to transfer all officials -- civil and police -- who had put in more than three years of service in a particular place, to ensure fair and free polls.
It had also expressed dissatisfaction over the tardy progress in distribution of Electors Photo Identity Cards (EPIC). Only 60 per cent of the electorate had been given the EPICs while its was more than 90 per cent in neighbouring Kerala and Pondicherry. The commission had instructed the district election officers to hold special camps for the issue EPICs as quickly as possible.
In attempt to implement the directive, officials had engaged the services of private computer companies and videographers to complete the job quickly. But going by the speed, it might not be possible to achieve the benchmark level of 90 per cent, stipulated by EC, official sources said.
With just 50 days to go for the polling day, the commission might get more tough, making the work of officials and political parties further tough, besides keeping them guessing about fresh directives.