‘Actor’s claim that proposers were threatened can’t be verified’

Actor Vishal Krishna’s nomination papers for the bypoll in Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar (R.K. Nagar) Assembly constituency were on Tuesday rejected by the Returning Officer K. Velusamy after two of the 10 persons who proposed his candidature claimed that their signatures were forged.

The actor, however, alleged that the two proposers had acted under duress.

The nomination papers filed by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa were also rejected as she had left a number of mandatory columns blank.

Chennai District Election Officer D. Karthikeyan told that the Returning Officer’s order “is a quasi-judicial order and cannot be changed.”

A senior Election Commission official said once nomination papers are rejected, the only recourse available to an affected candidate would be to file an Election Petition in the Madras High Court challenging the Returning Officer’s decision. “You cannot even appeal before the District Election Officer or the Election Commission,” the official said pointing out that an election process cannot be stayed by the court once it is notified.

Mr. Velusamy said in his order that while scrutinising the nomination papers of Mr. Vishal, two persons – K. Sumathy and Deepan, whose names figured among the list of proposers – made a representation to him that their signatures were forged.

Contesting this, Mr. Vishal submitted to the Returning Officer an audio clip containing a purported telephonic conversation between him and a man related to Ms. Sumathy. The man was heard claiming that some supporters of AIADMK candidate E. Madhusudanan had threatened family members of the proposer to submit a complaint that her signature was forged.

Holding that the veracity of the person’s claim in the audio clip cannot be ascertained, Mr. Velusamy late at night issued an order rejecting the actor’s nomination papers. The order said the required number of 10 proposers have not validly proposed the candidature of Mr. Vishal, and hence, he had not fulfilled the conditions for valid nomination.

Charge denied

When  asked the AIADMK candidate Mr. Madhusudanan about the actor’s charge that his supporters had threatened Ms. Sumathy and Mr. Deepan, he said he was not aware of anything. He did not respond to further questions.

Mr. Vishal, upon learning that his nomination papers were rejected, staged a dharna on the road where the office of the Returning Officer was located in Tondiarpet alleging foul play.

An hour later, the actor, who met the Returning Officer with his supporters, told journalists that the officials had reversed their decision and accepted his nomination papers. He went on to thank the Election Commission officials for doing the “right thing”.

He also added that he would now go to the constituency and meet people, and undertake a door-to-door campaign from Wednesday.

He also tweeted “After much struggle, my nomination for the RK Nagar election is finally accepted…. Truth Always Triumphs !! #JusticeServed#DemocracyPrevails”.

However, late in the night, the Election Commission announced that of the 145 nominations received, 72 were accepted and the rest rejected on various grounds.

In Ms. Deepa’s case, a scrutiny of her affidavit showed that she had left the section of “Details of Assets and Liabilities in Rupees” blank and even failed to fill up the column seeking details of highest educational qualification.

Late in the night, Mr. Vishal said he would identify an Independent candidate – a youngster – and work for his victory.