With rural body elections in Tamil Nadu to be held in less than three weeks, a purported video of villagers “selling off” the president and vice-president posts in their panchayat has created a storm in the state.
Reportedly, the villagers agreed to give their former president and vice-president another term in exchange for Rs 65 lakh for the renovation of a local temple.
The bizarre incident allegedly took place in Nadukkupam panchayat in Panruti union in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. In the video, which is circulating on social media, the villagers can be seen gathered near a temple and a person is purportedly reading aloud a resolution to re-elect AIADMK functionary R Sakthivel and DMK functionary A Murugan as president and vice-president of the Nadukuppam panchayat. The panchayat eight wards and 1,900 voters.
In the video, the person can be heard announcing that the decision had been taken keeping in mind the completion of Sri Draupadi Amman temple’s renovation, and for the betterment of the village.
For the president post, the villagers had kept a base price of Rs 50 lakh and for the vice-president, it was Rs 15 lakh. The Dravidian functionaries agreed to the villagers’ demand to pay the bid amount before December 15, and in return, the villagers promised they wouldn’t file any other nomination for the posts.
Speaking to the media, Cuddalore Collector Anbu Selvan said “I have ordered a probe into the incident. We are encouraging people to exercise their democratic rights. If the incident really took place and if anyone is found is guilty, appropriate action will be taken. We are making all efforts to conduct this election democratically.”
The state government had issued an ordinance to hold indirect elections to the posts of corporation mayor and chairperson of municipal and town panchayats.
கடலூர் மாவட்டம் பண்ருட்டி அருகே நடுக்குப்பம் ஊராட்சி மன்றத்தலைவர் பதவிக்கு ரூ.50 லட்சம், துணைத்தலைவர் பதவிக்கு ரூ.15 லட்சம் ஏலம் விடப்பட்டுள்ளது#localbodyelections #panruti #nadukkuppam #electioncommission #tamilnadu pic.twitter.com/0azQscZlrZ
— 1NewsNation (@1news_nation) December 9, 2019
Speaking to indianexpress.com on the Nadukuppam issue, writer and civil-rights activist SV Rajadhurai said the local body elections are failing in their purpose if they offer nothing to those oppressed.
“The incident, if true, is shocking and saddening. The entire process is in a mess, this local election is being held just to check the pulse of the public as state elections are around the corner. People and parties take advantage of the villagers. There has to be a change from the ground level, people need to be educated about all these wrongdoings. Until then, elections will have no meaning,” Rajadhurai said.
In line with the Supreme Court order that allowed the state government to conduct local body elections except in nine newly carved out districts, the Election Commission issued a gazette notification to rural local bodies in 27 districts (Ariyalur, Coimbatore, Cuddalore, Dharmapuri, Dindigul, Erode, Kanniyakumari, Madurai, Nagapattinam, Namakkal, Perambalur, Pudukottai, Ramanathapuram, Salem, Sivagangai, Thanjavur, Nilgris, Theni, Thiruvannamalai, Thoothukudi, Tiruchirapalli, Tiruppur, Tiruvallur, Tiruvarur, and Virudhunagar), to conduct the elections in two phases.
In the first phase on December 27, 156 panchayats will go to polls to elect 4,700 village panchayat chairpersons, 2,546 panchayat union ward members, 260 district panchayat ward members, and 37,830 panchayat ward members.
Similarly, in the second phase on December 30, 158 panchayats will elect 4,924 village panchayat chairpersons, 2,544 panchayat union ward members, 255 district panchayat ward members, and 38,916 village panchayat ward members.