Tamil Nadu man killed for opposing panchayat poll fixing

Allegations of panchayat posts being auctioned in Tamil Nadu are doing the rounds.(Getty Images/iStockphoto/Representational)
Allegations of panchayat posts being auctioned in Tamil Nadu are doing the rounds.(Getty Images/iStockphoto/Representational)
Updated on Dec 13, 2019 02:23 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chennai | By MC Rajan

A Tamil Nadu youth was killed for protesting attempts to fix the election for the post of village panchayat president in a hamlet of Virudhunagar district on Wednesday night. This is the first casualty in the run-up to the December 27 and 30 civic polls for the state’s rural panchayats amidst reports from across the state of panchayat posts being auctioned rendering the polling useless.

A 27-year-old marketing manager in a private bank, V Sathish Kumar, was beaten to death at Kottaipatti by a group seeking to install its own candidate as the Panchayat president.

Kottaipatti is a dusty hamlet of around 600 families near Sivakasi in Virudhnagar district, more than 500 km south of Chennai, and was represented by an AIADMK panchayat president last time when the seat was reserved for Dalits. Now, it has been reserved for the OBCs, triggering a fresh race to grab the office.

AIADMK’s Rama Subbu’s name had been proposed for the post at a community meeting called on Wednesday, which was objected to by Sathish who was backing his relative, one Subbu Ram instead. Police said this angered Rama Subbu and his backers, who thrashed Sathish and fled.

“Sathish Kumar opposed it (Rama Subbu’s name) since the AIADMK had held the post last time and demanded that his relative, Subbu Ram, be given the chance this time,” police said.

Relatives rushed Sathish to the government hospital in Sivakasi, where he was declared dead on arrival, said police. Rama Subbu and his brothers, Ram Kumar and Subbu Raj have been arrested and two others held for questioning, police said.

The civic body elections are being held in two phases, the first will see voting for more than one lakh rural panchayats posts on December 27 and 30 while the elections to town panchayats and other urban civic bodies - municipalities and city corporations-- would be held later in the second phase, for which dates have not been announced yet.

Ahead of the elections, being held after a gap of seven years, reports of auctioning of the posts are pouring in from across the state. The first incident was reported from Nadukkuppam panchayat in Cuddalore district, where the posts of panchayat president and vice president have allegedly been auctioned for Rs 50 lakh and Rs 5 lakh respectively. Those winning the bid were told to deposit the money by December 15. The money will be used for community welfare measures like temple renovation etc, reports claimed.

Former president and AIADMK functionary R Sakthivel, who reportedly won the bid for the post of panchayat president and DMDK’s Murugan, who won the bid for the office of panchayat vice-president, denied any auction took place during a probe by Cuddalore administration.

“I do not have the wherewithal to pay a hefty sum like Rs 50 lakh. It is a conspiracy by the opposition,” says Sakthivel.

In a similar case in Thirumangalakottai in Thanjavur district, the panchayat president post was reportedly auctioned for Rs 32 lakh, as per a video that has gone viral. Revenue officials have launched an inquiry into the issue.

The third case was reported from the Pudukottai district, were the posts at two village panchayats under Thiruvarankulam Panchyat Union were allegedly auctioned for Rs 23 lakh and Rs 12 lakh respectively. Another post reserved for general candidates in another village in the district is said to have been grabbed for Rs 11 lakh at a community auction.

Pudukottai District Collector Uma Maheswari said the administration will look into it and take necessary action if reports of auctions are found to be true.

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