Sasikala’s name out of TN voters’ list, aides cry foul
V K Sasikala’s name has been removed from the voter’s list from the Thousand Lights constituency in Chennai and she won’t be able to vote in the assembly election in the state on April 6, the expelled All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader’s aides said on Monday, with one of her supporters going so far as to term it “her civil death”.
According to them, names of Sasikala, her sister-in-law J Ilavarasi, and other family members and workers living at late J Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence, Veda Nilayam, were deleted after the AIADMK government acquired the premises to convert it into a memorial.
The current AIADMK government in the state is headed by Edapaddi K Palaniswami, a one-time protege of Sasikala, who made him chief minister just before being sent to jail for four years in a disproportionate assets case. Palaniswami promptly expelled her from the party.
A total of 19 people who were living in the house including the cook Rajammal who lived there for three decades are missing from the electoral rolls, the aides said. A separate case on the acquisition of the house and its conversion into a museum is pending with the Madras high court as Jayalalithaa’s niece and nephew have claimed the property as her legal heirs.
Sasikala and Ilavarasi have been in a bengaluru jail since February 2017, and returned to Chennai in February after serving a four-year prison term. The two currently live in T Nagar which also falls under the Thousand Lights constituency.
Sasikala’s counsel Raja Senthoor Panidan approached the election commission for her name to be included from the new address on March 17. “On March 16, I came to know that her name was deleted and the next day at 11.30am, I met chief election officer Satyabrata Sahoo but he said his powers to make changes in electoral rolls was over on March 9,” said Pandian.
“Just because the government took over the property, how can they delete the names without issuing any notice to us? As her advocate, I will seek action against the officer who deleted her name without a valid reason because of which she has lost her franchise.”
According to the Representation of People’s Act, people residing in a particular area can register themselves in electoral rolls by applying to booth-level electoral officers with relevant proof of residence documents. While enrollment is a continuous process throughout the year, for election bound states, the Election Commission has a cut-off date after which no names can be added
“This cut-off date is to enable a level playing field and prevent last minute additions in the electoral rolls. Also, most of the personnel engaged in updating electoral rolls are also on election related duty and therefore, the cut-off date is given. In exceptional cases, where the name of the person has been wrong removed, it can be added even after the cut-off date,” a senior election commission official said on condition of anonymity.
He added that since Sasikala was not residing at the Chennai address for several years, election officers may have deleted her name. The name could had been added had she applied on time, he added.
“In 2019 itself her name was deleted before the Lok Sabha elections, it is being made into an issue now,” said Thousand Lights’s assistant electoral rolls officer, Ravi Kumar. “We had sent a notice to the concerned party asking if they are residing there and gave ample time but since we didn’t get any response we have deleted the names as per procedure. I’ve an election to conduct tomorrow. I’ve given my detailed response to the election commission. They will give a reply to the media.”
Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran’s party Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) said it was conspiracy by the government. “They have caused a civil death of V K Sasikala,” AMMK’s Thousand Lights candidate N Vaidhyanathan. “The government has the power to delete the names of people only if they have died or if they apply for a change of address. The state and central government have deliberately done this. We also found 19,000 voters’ names who are AMMK supporters are missing.”
Poes Garden falls under the Thousand Lights constituency. Interestingly, actor Rajinikanth and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s leader MK Stalin are also voters in the constituency.
The AMMK candidate has written to the ECI , seeking postponement of the election in the Thousand Lights constituency until Sasikala’s name is included. In his letter, Sasikala is still mentioned as the AIADMK’s general secretary.
While Sasikala was still in jail, Dhinakaran floated AMMK with a breakaway faction of her supporters. After her release she made moves to reclaim the AIADMK but the party under chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami refused to accommodate her. Sasika’s conviction means she cannot hold an elected post or public office till 2027.