The electoral battle for the Kannur Assembly constituency getting fiercer by the day with the campaign gathering a hectic pace hardly eclipses preparations in the background for the post-election legal battle to be fought out in courts.
The election scene in the constituency, already marred by allegations and counter-allegations over the enrolment of large number of new voters including some who got themselves transferred from the neighbouring constituencies, appears to have a post-election dimension with the major rivals, the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF), being brought into considering the legal battles anticipated after the election. The UDF’s lodging complaints in the Police Station here against what it calls bogus voters enrolled in the electoral roll here is an indication of the post-election legal encounter in the pipeline.
The controversy over the large-scale enrolment of new voters in the constituency, which the UDF attributed to the CPI(M) ‘strategy’ of capturing the constituency through transfer of its supporters from neighbouring constituencies to get enrolled in the voters list for the by-poll here, continues to be the major campaign issue. The complaint was lodged by Congress leader and Pallikkunnu panchayat president P.K. Ragesh against 300 voters and 10 officials including Village Officers and Panchayat Secretaries for enrolment in the voters list on the basis of ‘fake residency certificates’. Congress councillor in the Kannur municipality M. Prashanth Babu has lodged a similar complaint at the police station against 84 people including 75 new voters in the list and eight officials. The UDF leaders in Payyannur are also planning to lodge complaints against ‘migration’ of nearly 100 CPI(M) supporters settled in the Payyannur Assembly constituency for years to the Kannur constituency with the help of officials who they alleged have issued false residency certificates.
In a counter move, the CPI(M) has lodged a complaint against Mr. Ragesh and nearly 500 Congress workers alleging that the panchayat president issued fake residency certificates to enroll new voters in the Pallikkunnu and Puzhathi panchayats.
Meanwhile, the UDF leadership here has been irked by the Town Police’s handing over the complaints lodged by Mr. Ragesh to District Collector and District Electoral Officer P.B. Saleem. Instead of registering a criminal case for forgery of the certificates and for colluding with acts of forgery, the complaints have been directed to the Collector seeking follow-up action. This, according to the UDF leaders, is against the rules. The police, however, say that the Collector’s instruction has been sought on the complaint since it relates to the electoral roll.
The Collector has disclosed that the complaint has been sent to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and promised action on the basis of the CEO’s instruction.
As the major rivals in the electoral battle are honing their strategies for the possible post-election litigation, arrangements are also on to ensure a free and fair poll on November 7. Three companies of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) arriving here on Sunday will be deployed to assist the local police. Mr. Saleem has announced that 10 police personnel will be posted at each of the 123 polling stations in the constituency. As many as 22 sectoral magistrates escorted by police teams will also monitor the polling stations, the Collector has said adding that arrangements have been under way to videograph all voters inside the polling booths. It has also been announced that officials will verify the identity of voters standing in queues before the booths. The Collector has also announced that all entry points to the constituency will also be closed monitored on the polling day.