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Tuesday, July 16, 2024, 11:39 am

Tuesday, July 16, 2024, 11:39 am

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Ensure fair polling, regardless of AIADMK’s arguments for the boycott.

Ensure fair polling, regardless of AIADMK's arguments for the boycott.
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Surprises from assembly by-elections are rare. In Tamil Nadu, the ruling party (or its allies) have won nearly three of the four by-elections held since the AIADMK first stormed to power in 1977. This pattern may not be broken by the July 10 by-election to the Vikravandi constituency, which is situated in the comparatively underdeveloped Villupuram district of the northern part of the State, but the main opposition party, the AIADMK, has given the contest a fresh twist by announcing a boycott of the polls. Its stated concern was that, similar to the Erode (East) by-election in 2023, the ruling DMK will “indulge in enormous use of money and muscle power.”

 

The AIADMK, which failed in the 2024 general election, is hesitant to repeat their mistakes. The DMK, PMK (a part of the BJP-led NDA), and Naam Tamilar Katchi are all involved. The AIADMK may be attempting to re-engage with the PMK. The boycott is not appropriate for a major political party. The AIADMK’s logic presents a problem for electoral authorities to ensure a free and transparent bypoll. Previous by-elections have been affected by the flow of gifts and money. In Erode (East), the AIADMK accused the DMK of misleading voters during the election campaign.

 

Bribery laws are often seen as ineffective against political parties, particularly those in power. While it is not difficult to tighten legislation, the question remains whether they will be executed fairly. It is up to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to resolve these concerns. The ECI’s most effective weapon against recognised political parties is the ability to freeze their insignia. However, this has never been utilised in Tamil Nadu, even when suspicions of electoral interference have appeared.

 

During the AIADMK’s tenure, the ECI reversed the polling process in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur during the 2016 State Assembly elections.
In April 2017, the R.K. Nagar by-poll was cancelled due to allegations of bribery and manipulation of voters. In the subsequent elections for the three seats, candidates who had previously received negative attention won. The ECI must deliver a clear message of zero tolerance for bribery to bring about significant change.

 

The electorate should not be influenced by money or freebies. Civil society organisations have a key role.

 

 

ABHISHEK VERMA


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