Saturday, April 2, 2011

Corruption a major poll issue in Tamil Nadu

Chennai: Corruption and quality of governance are major campaign themes in the five states going to the polls starting Monday, but nowhere is it more evident than in Tamil Nadu.

Even as political parties sharpen their attacks on one another, the Congress and its ally-cum-Tamil Nadu's ruling DMK are facing most of the heat over corruption.

Political activists and pundits say this is but natural, considering the involvement of DMK veterans in the mind-boggling spectrum allocation scam that has also dented the image of the Congress-led coalition.

While DMK leader and former communications minister A Raja is in jail, investigators have raided the offices of a TV station linked to the family of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi as well as an NGO which counts Karunanidhi's daughter and DMK MP Kanimozhi as a patron.

Karunanidhi, one of India's most experienced politicians, continues to deny the involvement of his family, party and colleagues in any corruption and says no one can be deemed guilty until proved in a court of law.

Tamil Nadu's political theme will cast a shadow on nearby Puducherry, which too boasts of the same actors as in Tamil Nadu: DMK, AIADMK, PMK and Congress.

"The outcome in Tamil Nadu will tell us how potent an issue like corruption can be in elections," political analyst and election watcher GVL Narasimha Rao said.

Added Yogesh Vajpeyi, another analyst: "Corruption coupled with bad governance is an issue in these elections. This time it is likely to be combined with nepotism.

"To some extent, (Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh has lost his image. Although he is considered personally clean, many feel he failed to control corruption right under his nose."

The DMK is overtly confident but insiders admit that the going on April 13 will be tough. Pre-election surveys say the rival coalition led by the AIADMK has an edge in the battle for the 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly.

At her election rallies, AIADMK supremo and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa has been hitting out at Karunanidhi and the DMK on corruption. AIADMK members also distribute MMS and video clips of Raja's arrest.

The spectrum scam is not the only corruption issue worrying the Congress that has propped up the DMK in Tamil Nadu since 2006.

A snowballing crisis related to the myriad corruption charges in the conduct of last year's Commonwealth Games -- and the money wasted in supposedly sprucing up Delhi.

While the DMK is a potent force only in Tamil Nadu, the Congress has vital stakes in all five states. It is in power in Puducherry and Assam while it is aiming to form government in Kerala. It hopes to be on the winner's side in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

"The Congress will have to explain the actions of not only (its leader) Suresh Kalmadi regarding the Commonwealth Games but also what the DMK did (vis-a-vis the spectrum saga)," said a Congress insider.

"Corruption till now has not been such a potent issue; it is rather governance which people look at. Now corruption has come up as the factor which proves bad governance," said analyst Rao.

"Ultimately Tamil Nadu will be the key factor," he added. "We have to see if corruption can be a salient issue in the electoral scene."

But corruption, poor governance and inflation are talking points in the other states also, including Kerala and West Bengal where the Left is a target of the Opposition.

Not everyone, however, feels that concerns over corruption will lead to loss of significant electoral support -- and votes. Some argue that only urban voters are bothered about corruption.

Perpetrators of violence have become DMK councillors:Jaya

Chennai: Coming down heavily on the law and order situation in DMK-ruled Tamil Nadu, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa on Friday alleged that those who indulged in violence have become DMK councillors.

Addressing an election meeting here, she said the violent scenes public sees in films are a reality in Tamil Nadu under DMK rule.

She said if AIADMK was voted to power, the focus would be on violence-free rule, steps to bring down price rise and make the state free of power cuts. 

People of Tamil Nadu will never support coalition govt, says Jaya

Chennai: AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa on Thursday said the people of Tamil Nadu will never support a coalition government in the state, days after her archrival M Karunanidhi indicated that the DMK was not averse to such an arrangement if the situation warranted.
"The people of Tamil Nadu will never support a coalition government," she said.

Jayalalithaa, who is contesting from Srirangam in Trichy, said the people of the state are "thoroughly disgusted" with the domination of a one single family in the affairs of the state.

"The people have made up their mind to throw out this family lock, stock and barrel," she said in response to a query.

Her comments come days after Karunanidhi indicated that the DMK may head a coalition government in the state if the situation warrants.

The Congress, which has been providing outside support to the DMK Government in Tamil Nadu, has also been indicating that it may join the government if the combine is voted back to power.

"The results will speak," Jayalalithaa, who is hopeful of making a comeback in the elections, said. 

The former chief minister also lamented that there was little time left for campaigning as the Election Commission decided to conduct the polls in April instead of May.

Money being distributed in police jeep: EC

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Chennai: The Election Commission on Tuesday submitted before the Madras High Court that it has received information that money was being distributed in police jeep in poll-bound Tamil Nadu.

The EC had filed a counter-affidavit on Monday seeking to vacate the interim order passed last week.

The court had directed the EC not to conduct any search and seizure without the concerned authority arriving at the "subjective satisfaction regarding the nature and source of information."

When the matter came up before the bench comprising Chief Justice M Y Eqbal and Justice T S Sivagnanam, senior counsel for the EC, G Rajagopalan said, "The information received from Departments of Central Government is very shocking. Even money is being distributed in police jeep."

"We have listed where the money was drawn and taken and in which house money was kept. We have seized 1/10th of the material of what we got information. Whatever information we have received up to March 27 we are submitting in the report. We have not mentioned the names of the officials (who collected details) as they should not be targeted," the counsel said.

"The money distribution (to voters) was done with meticulous planning. We are not able to deal with (a case of) such magnitude and are trying to deal with it. So far 2900 cases have been registered. We are going to take action against the police officers who distributed money. These cannot be anonymous information. Some names (of police officials) are really shocking," he said.

After hearing submission by the counsel on a batch of writ petitions filed by Tamil Nadu Minister K P P Samy and others, the bench reserved its order on the petitions.

Samy, a DMK candidate for the polls, had filed a petition seeking a direction to EC and its officials to pay Rs five crore by way of damages for "loss of reputation" in view of "unfounded and unauthorised search" at his house.