THE ELECTION Commission (EC) froze the ‘two leaves’ poll symbol of the AIADMK on Wednesday, a day before the last date of filing nomination for the by-election to the R K Nagar assembly seat in Tamil Nadu, which was necessitated by the death of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa. The poll panel also barred the two warring factions of the party — headed by interim general secretary V K Sasikala and former CM O Panneerselvam — from using AIADMK’s name to fight the by-polls. Both camps will have to contest under two different symbols, which will be allotted from the list of free symbols, and also under new party names. Each faction, however, will be allowed to choose a name that indicates a “linkage with their parent party”.
The EC’s interim order, passed under Para 15 of the Symbols Order, came late on Wednesday night after a six-hour hearing. Both the camps had hired legal heavyweights like former law ministers M Veerappa Moily and Salman Khurshid, former solicitor general Mohan Parasaran, and senior advocates C S Vaidyanathan, G Krishnakumar and B Srinivasan to argue their case. The two groups were asked to indicate their preferred symbol and party name by 10 am on Thursday. This arrangement is only for the purpose of the by-poll, the commission iterated.
This is the second symbol dispute heard by the EC in the past three months. In January, it resolved the feud between Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav by allotting the ‘cycle’ symbol to the group led by the former. The EC, however, decided against pronouncing a final verdict in the AIADMK dispute because it had little time to analyse proof and affidavits submitted by the Sasikala and Panneerselvam camps.
“A deeper examination and more closer look would also be required to the various provisions of the party constitution on which both the groups relied to buttress their submissions on factual and legal basis. No one would grudge the fact that it is almost humanly impossible to study all the aforesaid records running into more than 20,000 pages and to analyze the oral submissions made by the learned senior counsels for more than six hours continuously, and then come to a definite finding or conclusion on the disputed questions of facts and law,” the interim order said.
Both factions have time till April 17 to submit more documents and affidavits to endorse their claims to the party symbol following which the EC will fix another date for the hearing. During the hearing on Wednesday, Panneerselvam’s camp claimed that since Sasikala is only an interim general secretary, she cannot allot party symbol of ‘two leaves’ to any candidate contesting the R K Nagar assembly election. It said only the party’s presidium chairman E Madhusudhanan can allot the symbol. Panneerselvam’s lawyers also alleged that Sasikala’s appointment as interim general secretary was bad in law, as she was elected by AIADMK’s general council and not the primary members. The group led by Sasikala maintained that after the demise of M G Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa too was appointed interim general secretary to run the party.