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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Rigging, booth capturing in Thoothukudi municipality

Polling to ward number 2 under the Thoothukudi Municipality, reserved for Dalit women, reportedly witnessed rigging and booth capturing by the members of the ruling party.

Polling was by and large peaceful in the 1,064 booths across the municipal wards till Friday afternoon. However, later in the day, the DMK cadre began flouting norms and started entering booths in several wards.

Meanwhile, several cadres, led by a party functionary Raveendran, were said to have entered the polling booth at Tagore Memorial School booth in ward number 2, where they began dictating terms. The opposition to this by the AIADMK, MDMK and DMDK booth agents fell on deaf ears. Even the security men on duty turned a blind eye to the happenings.

Raveendran and the other DMK cadre allegedly threatened the agents of the AIADMK candidate A Veerammal and the DMDK-supported independent candidate E Kalaiselvi and forced them to leave the booth. The DMK men also prevented reporters, who arrived at the booth on being informed about the incident, while the police played a wait and watch game.

Though the reporters informed the DMK men that the Superintendent of Police, Y John Nicholson, had issued orders over phone that they should be let into the booth, they did not budge making the journalists wait for the DMK district secretary N Periyasamy, father of Minister for Animal Husbandry Geetha Jeevan, to arrive.

When Periyasamy finally arrived, it was the polling officer’s turn to play ‘factotum.’ The officer, who was summoned to the car, ran to the vehicle only to be instructed by the DMK district secretary not to allow scribes inside the booth.

Meanwhile, Raveendran, who was in an inebriated state, showered expletives on journalists and said that anything written about him in papers would only boost his image in the party.

Collector’s response: When this reporter contacted District Collector R Palaniyandi for his comments about the incident, he was quick to negate such an occurrence. He asked the reporter to call back later.

However, when contacted later, the Collector said that though some law and order problems had occurred earlier, the situation was under control.

When asked how polling could be conducted in a fair manner in the absence of booth agents of the Opposition parties, he said, “I cannot interfere in their (booth agents) freedom to leave the booths”.

About the polling officer coming out of the booth to meet the DMK district secretary, Palaniyandi said that it was unfortunate and added that he would look into the matter after the local body elections. The Collector further said that he had sent Thoothukudi Municipal Commissioner, Kanagaraj, who is also the Returning Officer for the municipality, along with the Assistant Returning Officer, municipal engineer Rajagopal to the spot, to set things right.

Source: New Ind Press

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