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Opinion | Prev


Poll violence

B. S. Raghavan

The recently held elections to local bodies in Tamil Nadu have brought out a number of ugly features. Political parties, adept at throwing dust into the eyes of the people, while flying at the throats of each other, are playing up or down, as suits their selfish interests, the incidents of booth-capturing, rigging, intimidation of voters and poll personnel, and violence.

Cable TV channels in the State, unmindful of the media code to adhere to truth, accuracy and impartiality in news coverage, have been giving prominence to one-sided accusations seeking to create the impression, at one end, of Tamil Nadu sinking to abysma l depths putting Bihar to shame, and, at another, of its being the same beacon light of law and order as it ever was.

The Jaya TV and the Sun TV put out diametrically opposite versions on the complicity of the two major Dravidian parties -- the DMK and the AIADMK -- in letting loose anarchy and terror at many polling booths and counting centres. At one stage, Jaya TV ca used considerable confusion, with much potential for mischief, with its announcement of the victory of Mr Balaganga as the newly elected Mayor of Chennai!

The DMK and the AIADMK traded comparative statistics, denigrating each other, on the number of incidents during the local bodies elections in 1996 (when the former was in power) and in 2001 in the AIADMK regime. They left none any the wiser.

It must be said to the credit of the print media that they were, on the whole, responsible and credible, maintaining a sense of proportion and balance. An unbiased view of the accounts published in a wide range of newspapers and magazines leads ineluctab ly to the conclusion that the AIADMK is to be blamed for all the reprehensible happenings more than the other parties in the fray. This is also corroborated by one significant fact: The General Secretary of the party, M .J.Jayalalithaa, who normally is q uick to answer elaborately, in the form of statements or letters to the media, any aspersions cast on her or her party, has not come forward to rebut or refute the serious and explicit reports pinning the responsibility on the AIADMK.

The State Election Commission (SEC) deserves praise for conducting a difficult and mammoth State-wide operation with reasonable efficiency. Just consider: There were 4.77 lakh candidates for 1.31 lakh posts, with an electorate of 4.66 crore (up from 4.38 crore in 1996). The poll process covered six Corporations with 474 wards, 102 municipalities (3392 wards), 611 town panchayats (9794 wards), 29 district panchayats (649 wards), 385 panchayat unions (6505 wards) and 12,618 village panchayats (97,512 ward s).

As against this, in the view of the State Election Commissioner, Mr P. S. Pandiyan, the 79,000 police personnel, supplemented by 10 companies from the security forces from the Centre and other States, proved "inadequate". This, and their failure at place s to avert booth-capturing, posed problems resulting in "bad blood" and violence. He should unsparingly expose the malpractices in his report on the elections so as to serve as a warning to political roughnecks and enlist the support of the people in fig hting them in future.

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