It was a First Day First Show of the kind Vishal would have never imagined. 24 hours after he filed his nomination for the RK Nagar constituency by-election, he was labeled a cheat who had forged the signatures of two of his proposers. Two other independent candidates alleged forgery once Vishal's nomination papers were put out in the public domain.
Like he does in his movies, pushed to the wall, Vishal fought back. He produced an audio conversation with Velu, the husband of Sumathi, one of the ten proposers.
On tape, whose authenticity has not been independently verified, Velu is heard explaining to Vishal how he was confined to a place by AIADMK candidate E Madhusudanan's men and offered a bribe to claim forgery. He also claims Sumathi was threatened. This, Vishal said, was proof that strong arm tactics were used to force Sumathi to tell the Returning Officer that her signature was forged.
But the Election Commission was not a film set where the hero always wins in the end. Vishal's application even after this revelation, was rejected which means he will not be in the fray in the byelection on 21 December.
Vishal was among the 73 candidates whose nomination papers were rejected on various counts. Another high profile candidate Deepa who is Jayalalithaa's niece, also found herself out in the cold, after a scrutiny revealed that she had not filled in details on a few forms.
Vishal took to Twitter to express his disgust and disillusionment at what had happened. "5th Dec 2016, #Amma died. 5th Dec 2017, #Democracy died,'' he tweeted. In another tweet, he wrote, "Democracy at its lowest low !! Disheartening to hear that the nomination made by me was initially accepted & later when I left, has been announced as invalid.''
Democracy at its lowest low !!
Disheartening to hear that the nomination made by me was initially accepted & later when I left, has been announced as invalid.#PoliticalGame
— Vishal (@VishalKOfficial) December 5, 2017
Vishal is right. RK Nagar, which was named after Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, former President of India and an eminent scholar, now stands associated with bribery, cash for votes, forgery, abduction and intimidation. If the two people who proposed Vishal's name were indeed kidnapped, threatened and bribed, it points to goons running amok and the law and order machinery looking the other way.
These are very serious charges and the Election Commission owes an explanation on what happened and a fair investigation to the constituency, Tamil Nadu and the country.
I asked Bhanwarlal, former Chief Electoral Officer of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, if the EC makes it a point to check with every person who has proposed for a candidate, if it is indeed his signature.
"No, we don't. The nomination papers of every candidate are put out in the public domain. The EC does not crosscheck with every proposer whether he/she signed for a candidate unless another candidate raises a specific objection,'' said Bhanwarlal.
That is what happened in Vishal's case. What is intriguing is how did the two independents know that of the ten proposers, Sumathi and Deepan's signatures were allegedly forged. The two proposers are believed to have walked in to meet the Returning officer and tell him their signatures were forged. That begs the question, how did they know their names were used by one of the 145 candidates who had filed their nominations.
Prima facie, it seems highly unlikely that a person of Vishal's stature would not have managed to get ten genuine voters in RK Nagar constituency to propose his name.
But the dramatic turn of events has led to conspiracy theories buzzing by the dozen. Did Vishal outsource the job of finding ten proposers or did he personally check with every individual himself? Did he have quality legal assistance when he filed his nomination papers? Because if a police probe does indeed establish forgery, it will seriously affect his credibility not just as an actor-producer and a budding politician but even his leadership within the Tamil Producers Council and Nadigar Sangam (South Indian Artistes Association). Already his rivals within the film industry have taken potshots at Vishal.
The Jayalalithaa vote was seen as getting split four ways - between party candidate E Madhusudanan, AIADMK rebel TTV Dhinakaran, Deepa and Vishal. The actor had strategically made it a point to visit Jayalalithaa samadhi before filing his nomination papers. Now with two candidates neutralised, it will be a straight fight for the Jayalalithaa vote between Madhusudanan and Dhinakaran.
An understanding of the demographics of RK Nagar will tell you that Vishal would have hurt Madhusudanan's chances to an extent. Both Madhusudanan and Vishal are Telugus and the language connect would have been useful in a constituency with a significant migrant population from Andhra Pradesh. This is not to say that Vishal would have caused an upset but if he took away a few thousand votes that would have otherwise fallen into the AIADMK kitty, Madhusudanan would have risked a close encounter with Dinakaran.
It would be interesting to see who Vishal extends his support to, now that he is no longer in the running.
If he asks his fans in RK Nagar to vote for Dhinakaran, it would confirm the rumours on who nudged him to contest. With the election result on 24 December bound to impact the longevity of the AIADMK government, both Madhusudanan and Dhinakaran would not want to leave anything to chance. Even if the DMK gains by the split in the traditional AIADMK vote, the second position will be equally important in the scheme of things.
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Updated Date: Dec 06, 2017 12:38:33 IST