Tamil Nadu : Impeding Elections, Emerging Equations
The Prime Minster Narendra Modi kick started BJP’s elections campaign much ahead of the other political parties in Tamil Nadu on February 1, for the coming assembly polls. The State Assembly Polls are due in May this year and the poll preparations have already begun. The Election Commission is giving final touches to complete the pre-poll exercises and would soon announce poll schedule.
With the re-election of Tamilisai Soundarajan as State BJP Chief for the second-term, the party is in an elated mood as she has been trying hard to form a strong rainbow alliance. She said confidently that the party plans to form a strong alliance to make an impact not only in the assembly polls but in government making afterwards. “People of Tamil Nadu want a change and look at a BJP led alliance as an alternative to the DMK and AIADMK,” she added.
The state unit is upbeat and confident that Amit Shah would form a mega-alliance against the Dravidian parties. It has already made contacts with actor turned politician Vijayakanth’s DMDK, Pattali Makkal Katchi, and others. With almost all of Lok Sabha poll partners striking a rebellious note, the BJP thinks it is vital to convince them even as the party garners visibility among state populace. While the MDMK parted way with the alliance last year, DMDK is playing dilly-dallying as other parties like DMK, the people welfare Front (a conglomerate consisting of MDMK, VCK and left parties) are also trying to woo him. Vijayakanth’s brother-in-law met top BJP leaders in Delhi. Vijayakanth who has been maintaining mum, was the first to congratulate Amit Shah on his elections as BJP chief. He said that he would announce his decision on alliance after the Kancheepuram meeting on February 20. PMK has already announced Dr Anbumani would be its Chief Ministerial candidate. He too is visiting the state to garner votes. This despite the fact that BJP is declaring repeatedly that only Vaiko’s MDMK had left the alliance, PMK and DMDK are still in NDA fold. Except MDMK, other allies like PMK, DMDK and India Jananayaga Katchi (IJK) are only taking time to decide their clear political stand.
In the AIADMK camp, it has started receiving applications from poll aspirants. The party supremo J Jayalalithaa expelled party MLA Pazha Karuppaiah last week for voicing against party’s functioning and rampant corruption. There is a strong wave against the ruling AIADMK in the flood-hit districts in Tamil Nadu for its handling and hitches in dolling out relief to the affected people. For the DMK, its heir apparent MK Stalin, son of patriarch M Karunanidhi, has visited almost every nook and corner of the state highlighting the poor performance of the AIADMK and its unfulfilled poll promises.
In the Muslim quarters, the parties are divided over which camp they should join, whether DMK or AIADMK. While Indian Union Muslim League Chief Kader Mohideen closeted with DMK Chief Karuanidhi and announced his party’s decision to align with DMK. The Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam and a faction of INL are veering towards AIADMK. Over the years, the Muslims largely supported DMK. However the AIADMK, which made a clean sweep in the last Lok Sabha Elections, is said to have got 7- 8 per cent of the Muslim votes. Muslim community is largely a divided force and lacks a charismatic leader. The Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath (TNTJ), a fringe outfit, which is yet to test its political fortunes in the elections, has decided not to support or campaign in the State for the ensuing assembly elections. The Muslim voters are geographically scattered in the state and Muslim parties being brought under roof is impossible, said a leader. Our aim is to defeat the BJP, be it is State or Lok Sabha polls, he added.
The Congress party is in total dis-array like a rudderless boat. One section wants to align with the DMK while others favour AIADMK. To make matters worse, the party MLA Vijayadharani was removed from the chief of women’s wing. She is now also set to join AIADMK, if one goes by the early indication available. It is pathetic to see the party that was once led by veterans like Kamaraj, is now in the grip of cine actresses Kushboo, Nagma and others. In Samathuva Makkal Katchi, an AIADMK ally, things are not well. The Party chief actor Sarat Kumar expelled another MLA Eranavur Narayanan. A section of top party functionaries has already joined BJP.
The TN Government has issued an order which extends immunity from vigilance probes to all employees ahead of State elections
In the poll eve year the ruling AIADMK J Jayalalithaa-led government’s decision to pre-empt and prevent probe and prosecution by vigilance department came for a severe criticism and is a subject matter of a PIL in the Madras High Court.
The Government Order signed by the Chief Secretary K Gnanadesikan explained the aim was to create a level playing field in dealing with corruption charges against government officers irrespective of their rank or grade. While so far only IAS, IPS and higher ranking officers enjoyed such immunity, the TN government’s latest order has extended it to all officers serving in the state government. “In respect of allegations of corruption against public servants relating to acts made in the official capacities, irrespective of their rank or group, the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption shall forward the complaints to the Vigilance Commission, which shall in turn seek and consider the remarks of the government, before ordering an appropriate enquiry by the DVAC, the GO (dated February 2) said. “The GO was a move to centralise powers under the guise of creating a level-playing field,” said an activist.
The SC order clarified that the special provisions were violative of Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees equality before law. The activists pointed out that the TN Government’s decision to give immunity to all levels of employees is against the SC verdict. They say the latest order would render vigilance machinery defunct In Tamil Nadu. “Now even a panchayath ward member cannot be charged without government’s nod”, they explain. We all are aware that the police probe is a skillful inquiry and collection of evidence without the knowledge of the culprits but in the case of TN it would become a casualty. Succinctly, there will be no confidentiality and insulation of the probing authorities from political and bureaucratic control and influence. “It helps them to know before-hand that probe would begin soon and they would act to render the same ineffective within their power. The GO has been issued at a time when there is a vociferous cry for a Lokayukta and right to services legislation to increase the transparency and maintain accountability.
The timing of the GO is important as the lakhs and lakhs of government employees are demanding a charter of demands including pay revision. The GO would appease them and their families to induce them vote for the ruling aiadmk, as the polls are round the corner, said an opposition leader. Many view this as an election gimmick to woo the voters particularly the government employees and their families. During the last few years corruption has become so ramphant in the state, added another political partyman. “The GO would reduce our work considerably once the new government comes to power after the state assembly polls, if the same is not stayed or quashed by the court.”
“We are already under-staffed and to handle a large number of probe cases would become a Himalayan task for us,” said an official from vigilance dept. Sources said some Government top ranking officials paid lakhs of rupees to escape from the DVAC probe. It has also come to surface many times that under the guise of probe, some in DVAC blackmail corrupt officials and extract money. Some say the GO would not affect the vigilance department’s functioning but would undermine the functioning of DVAC. The DVAC trapped and booked 161 officials in 2014 and picked momentum in arresting more corrupt officials in 2015.
The rate of conviction has also gone up by 66percent in 2015. In 2011-12, 35 officials were convicted while in 2012-12, 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively 2,72,135 officials were convicted. As on March 31 2015, for 1,720 cases, the trial is underway, 3,092 officials are facing the trails. There are 748 tribunal inquiries pending and 1805 people are facing the same. Number of people facing departmental inquiries in the same period is 4,695. A PIL has been filed against Madras High Court to quash the same which is pending.