The first phase of elections to the rural local bodies in Tamil Nadu is underway today (December 27) after a delay of three years. A total of 156 blocks in 27 districts are going to polls. The elections to 10 new and residual districts which were divided were stayed by Supreme Court after issues were raised related to delimitation process. A total of 2,31,890 candidates are in the fray while 18,570 have been elected unopposed to different posts. The fate of the candidates will be determined by around 1.3 crore voters. Even though there have been no reports of violenceso far, polling was delayed in certain areas due to discrepancies in the voting slips.
Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) are used in Melpuram block of Kanyakumari district on pilot basis in the state. The election commission announced that 42.47 % votes were polled by 1 PM. The second phase of polling will take place on December 30 and the counting on January 2.
In Veerapandi union of Salem district, tension prevailed as an All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) functionary reportedly polled the votes of others in the presence of polling officers. Following this, a couple of independent candidates locked the polling station accusing the ruling party of polling bogus voting in the booth in Madurai.
BOYCOTT OF ELECTIONS
In Thoothukudi district, residents of dominant caste boycotted the elections to the Pichivilai panchayat as it was reserved for dalits, which point towards the caste hegemony in place in the state. The Melavalavu panchayat in Madurai district has seen six dalit leaders, who were elected to panchayat, being killed by men from dominant caste in 1997.
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The residents of Konampatty village of Dharmapuri district boycotted the polls since the polling booth was shifted to a new place which is 3 kms away from their village. The delimitation process led to the shifting of polling booth and the residents alleged lack of transport facilities as the reason for the boycott.
The residents of Thulukankulam village of Thoothukudi district hoisted black flags and threatened to boycott the polls against the notice issued to vacate the land they were using for salt harvesting. Around 500 families of the village use 150 acres of land left unused by the State Industries Promotion Corporation Limited (SIPCOT) for which they have paid taxes till 2018. In a reconciliation meeting, the decision to vacate was deferred and a report was submitted to the collector following which the people withdrew from the protest.
DMK MOVES HIGH COURT
Meanwhile, the Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has moved the Madras High Court demanding the installation of CCTV cameras in the strong rooms. The party has also demanded the court to ensure the presence of agents of all the parties in the counting stations. The Rajya sabha member and party’s legal wing secretary R S Bharathi has filed the petition on the demand. The party has been continuously raising doubts over the conduct of free and fair polls. The holiday bench of the Madras High Court is expected to hear the case on Monday.
The party had earlier moved both the Supreme Court and High Court concerning the irregularities in the delimitation process in the newly carved out districts and reservation of seats for dalits in the existing districts. Both the ruling and opposition parties have been accusing each other of delaying the polls. The absence of the local bodies for more than three years has made a huge impact in settling the issues faced by the public.
The people of urban local bodies are still awaiting the announcement of elections to their local bodies.
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