Lok Sabha Election

Nathamedu makes a mockery of democracy

Unfree and unfair: Booth no. 60/194 in the Nathamedu polling centre witnessed large-scale irregularities.   | Photo Credit: N. Bashkaran

“I cast seven votes, got ₹6,000; what is your count?” asked a young boy outside the Nathamedu polling centre in Paapireddypatti block. “I only did four,” said the other.

Two women working in Tiruppur came with their booth slips, but forgot their IDs. They told The Hindu, they’ll go in and see if they can vote. They came out of booth 60/194, with an inked index finger, on the strength of the PMK booth agents.

Nathamedu, a Vanniyar-dominated village, takes pride in calling itself a “PMK bastion”. “We are fully PMK, there is no other vote here,” said a partyman.

The Hindu had reported about this village in the 2016 Assembly election, when the Adi Dravidar voters had alleged that their votes were captured by the PMK cadre inside the booth. Both Dalit voters and non-PMK voters never had a chance at a free ballot here. “I’ve never seen a polling system like this in my life,” said a security force man from another State.

Dubbed a sensitive centre with stringent monitoring, polling at Nathamedu was anything but stringent. Deliberate fixing of the camera to avoid the voting compartment; capturing of the voting compartment; multiple voting; voting with no IDs and only booth slips; open threats to polling staff — all of these marked the elections in the four booths of Nathamedu polling center in Paapireddipatti constituency.

“I had faced threats since morning,” said a harrowed presiding officer of booth 60/194 with 903 votes. Phones were brought to record the votes. When asked why phones were allowed, the presiding officer said, “What can I do, they have been threatening since morning,” said the government school teacher, posted as a presiding officer. He was right. The Hindu witnessed a protracted and violent altercation between a PMK man and the police, who insisted he leave his phone with someone before entering the booth. But he refused. “They just don’t listen, what can you do when the crowd is large?” asked the zonal officer.

Collector S.Malarvizhi made multiple trips to the centre to monitor the situation. She pulled up a young boy of the village, who had fixed the camera overlooking the table of the polling staff. “The cameras were sent by the EC and the rule is it should cover the voter compartment. I’ll take a look at the recording. Thankfully, they have not switched off the camera,” said Ms.Malarvizhi.

Between the meek polling staff and a few stern policemen, the irregularities could not be curbed. In videos shared by an official, in booth number 60/192, a polling agent followed a woman to the voting counter to press the button. In another video, a man seemed to have cast the vote for an elderly man behind the counter.

“Let us not hit 100%, not safe, 90% is good,” a few cadre were heard discussing amongst themselves soon after the Collector made multiple visits to the centre, acting on alerts from The Hindu.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 11:32:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/nathamedu-makes-a-mockery-of-democracy/article26881129.ece

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