Friday, March 4, 2011

MDMK asks EC to revise polling date in TN

Chennai: Joining the chorus on the demand for revising the poll schedule for the Tamil Nadu Assembly, MDMK leader Vaiko on Thursday asked the Election Commission to revise it, saying the exam season and the traditional Tamil New Year day came right during the peak of the campaign.

In a letter to the EC, Vaiko said exams for classes X and XII as well as university exams were scheduled between March 2 and April 11 and the electioneering could affect the students.

"The election campaign includes canvassing at the door steps of the voters and addressing public meetings using sound amplifier. This would cause disturbance to students preparing for the exams," he said. 
He said the first day of Tamil month "Chithirai", the 14th of April, was traditionally being celebrated as Tamil New year Day. 

Further, April 14, 16 and 17 were state government holidays on account of birthday of BR Ambedkar, Mahaveer Jayanthi and a Sunday, respectively, he pointed out saying that many persons may take leave on April 15 to visit places of their choice. 

"The electorate who wish to make these trips would leave their residences on April 12. Therefore considerable percentage of electorate would not be able to remain at their residence to exercise their franchise," he said. 

He suggested that notification for the April 13 polls be postponed and polling date be fixed for the first week of May both in Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry. 

Almost all parties except the AIADMK and MDMK have expressed their reservation over the April 13 polling date, with DMK president M Karunanidhi even terming it a 'hasty' decision. 

EC asks banks to inform them on huge cash transactions

Chennai: In a bid to curb money power during the April 13th Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, electoral authorities have asked banks to inform them about huge cash transactions and said they would seek IT department's assistance to keep track of cash flow.

Video Surveillance Teams, Video Viewing Teams and Accounting Teams would be in place to keep a tab on various poll-related activities including tracking a candidate's expenditure, Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar told reporters.

Detailing their efforts for the polls, Kumar said, among others, the Income Tax department's assistance will be sought in tracking cash flow. Besides this, banks have been asked to inform them about "large cash transactions".

He did not however, divulge details on the transaction range. 
This time, candidates have to submit more information pertaining to their assets such as furnishing information on dependents and providing their PAN card numbers, he said. A candidate can spend up to Rs 16 lakh as poll expenditure, he added. 

Kumar said the Election Commission had ordered stoppage of distribution of free Colour TV sets, a flagship programme of ruling DMK, as a "pre-emptive" measure to ensure there were no complaints. 

"It is pre-emptive move so that there are no complaints," he said. 

Answering queries on the matter, he said there cannot be any more new beneficiaries and such steps would ensure a "level playing field" for all parties. 

To a question on reservation by political parties including the DMK over the EC's polling schedule, he said it was not a Tamil Nadu specific one and the EC had fixed the date after considering many factors. 

While parties are left with just around 15 days for campaigning, they had also cited exam season and Tamil New Year festivities while seeking to change the poll date. 

He declined to comment on Chief Minister and DMK president M Karunanidhi slamming the EC for its "hasty" announcement of the schedule for the elections. 

Tapping of telephone lines: AIADMK MPs ask PM to order probe

Chennai: Days after raising in the Parliament the issue of alleged tapping of telephone lines of their party leader J Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK on Thursday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order a judicial probe into the issue and initiate action against police officials conducting surveillance of her residence.

"It is learnt from reliable sources that there have been incessant violations of human rights by the DMK government by tapping the telephonic conversation of our leader from her mobile phone and land lines at her residence," AIADMK MPs said in a memorandum submitted to Singh at New Delhi.

They alleged that this was being done by the state police under the instructions of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and that the police had placed mobile vans in and around her 'Poes Garden residence' to tap the calls in order to monitor her political activities and negotiations for Assembly polls.

This was being done for "enabling the rival DMK to plan their course of action", they alleged in the memorandum released here.

The Centre and the state government have to ensure an individual's right to privacy, which was a "part of the right to life and personal liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India," the said.
"Therefore the tapping of the telephone calls of our leader by making constant surveillance by police department is a serious invasion of her right to privacy," they said.

Holding that the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 enunciated circumstances under which telephone tapping can be done under the authorisation of the Union Home Secretary or the Home Secretary of the state, they wanted to know if the Centre or state had issued any orders in this regard.

"In view of the above, we request the Prime Minister to order a judicial probe into this issue as the DMK government has committed a serious violation of human rights.

We also request the Prime Minister to direct the Telecom Department to issue directions to the (state-run) BSNL and other private mobile operators not to tap the telephone calls of our leader."

They also requested the Prime Minister to initiate action against Tamil Nadu police officials who are conducting surveillance of our Jayalalithaa's residence and tapping phones supposedly under the provisions of law.

DMK's action committee to meet on Saturday

Chennai: In the backdrop of the stalemate over seat-sharing discussions with its key ally Congress, the DMK on Thursday announced that its top-level Action Committee under party president M Karunanidhi will meet here on March 5.

DMK General Secretary K Anbazhagan said in a statement here that the April 13 Assembly polls and the party's election agenda would be discussed in the meeting. 
The meeting assumes significance in the wake of the DMK being unable to finalise its poll agreement with the Congress even as AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, who held talks with Karunanidhi last night, had returned to Delhi without any apparent tangible results.

Azad's meeting with Karunanidhi this morning was called off at the eleventh hour, fueling speculations that all was not well in ties between the seven year-old allies.