The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on Wednesday moved an urgent writ petition before the Madras High Court, seeking a direction to the State government to distribute the Pongal cash gift of ₹2,500 to ration rice cardholders after ensuring that the tokens don’t contain the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) flag colours, and photographs of the Chief Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister, other Ministers and party office-bearers.
Justices R. Mahadevan and Anita Sumanth heard the case at the instance of senior counsel P. Wilson, who displayed photographs and videos of tokens containing ruling party flags and photos of its leaders.
He said the tokens were intended to mislead the people when elections were on the anvil and creating an impression as if the cash was being paid from the coffers of the ruling party and not from the public exchequer.
On the other hand, Advocate General Vijay Narayan, too, displayed tokens issued by the Civil Supplies Department and pointed out that they did not contain any political imagery.
Mr. Narayan said some overenthusiastic party cadre might have printed the tokens produced by Mr. Wilson in a couple of districts.
The A-G assured the court that the ration shops would only accept the official tokens for the distribution of the cash gift and other Pongal groceries.
When the senior judge on the Bench suggested that the Civil Supplies Department could issue a circular to that effect, the A-G accepted the suggestion and told the court that it would be issued by Thursday evening.
The Bench also granted liberty to the petitioner party to make a mention before it if no such circular gets issued so that the writ petition could be taken up for hearing once again for passing appropriate orders.
Filing an affidavit on behalf of the party, its organisation secretary R.S. Bharathi said 2.6 crore rice cardholders would benefit from the Pongal cash gift announced by the government this year.
“The petitioner’s party absolutely has no grievance to the said distribution at present and in fact during peak time of pandemic, our party’s president M.K. Stalin demanded the government to pay ₹5,000 to each family. Without heeding this demand and keeping quiet for many months, the Chief Minister has now announced ₹2,500 in the midst of election campaign.”
“Keeping in mind the general election to Tamil Nadu State Assembly, the incumbent Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, with hidden agenda, announced the Pongal free gift scheme on December 19 and hurriedly inaugurated it on December 20… I submit that the Pongal gift cash is being distributed from the government fund and not from the ruling party fund,” the affidavit read.
Including the Election Commission of India, too, as one of the respondents to the writ petition, the DMK said though the model code of conduct was yet to be enforced in the State, it was not proper on the part of the ruling party to indulge in such misleading activities since it would affect the level-playing field during the ensuing Assembly election in the State.