Amid release of Jaya video, R.K. Nagar set for election



The stage is set for the crucial by-election in the Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly constituency here on Thursday in which around 2.06 lakh voters are eligible to decide the fate of 59 candidates.

Queering the pitch on Wednesday was the sidelined AIADMK leader T.T.V. Dinakaran's camp member P. Vetrivel by releasing a video clip of the late J. Jayalalithaa purportedly on her hospital bed, forcing the Election Commission to tell television channels not to telecast it.

The run-up to the by-poll also saw several other twists and turns, including the rejection of actor Vishal Krishna's nomination papers and the change of controversial Returning Officer K. Velusamy.

The parties also traded charges of large-scale bribing of voters while flying squads seized around Rs 30 lakh from several people during the campaign.

The major contenders are AIADMK's E. Madhusudhanan, DMK's N. Marudhu Ganesh, Dinakaran -- contesting as an Independent -- and Bharatiya Janata Party's K. Nagarajan.

Elaborate security arrangements have been made for the smooth conduct of the poll.

The by-poll was necessitated following the death of AIADMK leader and Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016, who represented the Radhakrishnan Nagar seat. The counting of votes will be taken up on December 24.

On Wednesday, the ruling AIADMK cried foul and asked the poll panel to stop the telecast of the clip that showed Jayalalithaa drinking something from a plastic container, apparently while watching television.

The ruling party contended that the video was released with a "motive" before the high-stakes by-election and said a case should be filed against those responsible.

There was no indication as to when and where the video was shot.

Vetrivel, a disqualified MLA, denied it had anything to do with the by-election. "The video was shot by Sasikala after Jayalalithaa was shifted to a general room from ICU," he said here.

K.C. Palaniswamy, a former MP of AIADMK, said: "It is for Apollo Hospital authorities to clarify whether such a room actually exists in their hospital here and whether the video clip could be genuine.

"The genuineness of the video has to be established. Our point is -- what happened to Jayalalithaa at her residence before she was rushed to Apollo Hospital on September 22, 2016," Palaniswamy said.

Officials of Apollo Hospital were not available to comment on the video clip.

Even Krishnapriya, a relative of Sasikala/Dinakaran, said Vetrivel had betrayed the trust and released the video without anybody's consent.

Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar alleged that leaking the video clip was a misuse of the proximity enjoyed by the Sasikala family with the late leader, particularly during her last days at the Apollo Hospital.

"It is also in violation of the election rules," he alleged.

Jayakumar said the video clip, if at all, should have been presented before the judicial commission set up to inquire into the death of Jayalalithaa. "Instead, it was done with the by-election in mind."

Reacting to the charges, Dinakaran faction spokesperson Thangathamizhchelvan said there was no motive behind the release of the video clip which was shown to dispel allegations that the Sasikala family had a hand in her death.

He also rejected the demand for action on the issue, saying the Commission was not taking any action on the distribution of money to the tune of Rs 6,000 per voter in R.K. Nagar by the ruling AIADMK.

Meanwhile, Returning Officer Praveen Nair told television channels to stop showing the video clip, saying it violated Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act.

The provision bars display of any material by cinematographic or electronic means in areas going to polls on election eve and is a punishable offence.

Jayalalithaa was admitted to Apollo Hospital on September 22, 2016, and died there on December 5.

Earlier, Dinakaran had said he would release a video clip of Jayalalithaa in the hospital at an appropriate time.

Although the poll was first scheduled to be held in April this year, it was cancelled due to complaints of large-scale voter bribing by a candidate.

The poll is considered an acid test for the ruling AIADMK, as it underwent a split and then a patch-up, with Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam going out of the party and then rejoining it.

In the meantime, Dinakaran, who was the party's Deputy General Secretary, and his jailed aunt Sasikala were sidelined. - IANS