Dharmalingam Venugopal contested the recently held TN Assembly elections-2016 from Ooty (Udhagamandalam) constituency as an independent candidate. Many contestants were Badagas representing various political parties including two independants. Mr.Ganesh of Congress won the elections.
The following comments of Dharmalingam Venugopal amply explains about the problems posed by independents in INDEPENDANT INDIA however great their personal credentials may be. After the great Badaga leader Rao Bahadur HB ARI Gowder’s victory in the elections of 1957, no other person has won as a independent from the Nilgiris.
The so called powerful institution of Election Commission of India may not be as powerful/effective as we may hope to believe. The malaise of money and muscle power has corrupted the system considerably if not completely. Like it or lump it. But, that is the bitter truth! – Wg Cdr JP
The elections are over. Like every candidate I am required to give an explanation for how I have fared. Readers can decide if what I have to say is an excuse or an acceptable fact.
1. Election is unkind to Independents. While others have months to canvass, Independents get only the last ten days to campaign because symbols to Independents are allotted just 10 days before polling.
2. Then again, the electoral procedures are disproportionately a heavy burden on Independents who cannot afford various agents like the parties. Even in the voting machine my name was posted at the end of 11 contestants though I had a legitimate case for mentioning my name as ‘Dharmalingam Venugopal’.
3. Independents count on press and media for support but in reality press and media have absolutely no support for Independents. But such dailies carry scholarly articles by leading writers extolling the virtues of voting for committed Independents. Sheer hypocrisy.
4. Leading Tamil and English dailies not only denied me coverage despite the fact that they have been reporting my news for more than 30 years; they also refused to carry my advertisements worth Rs.50,000.
5. In the last few days of election, Independents like me were never mentioned in the news. Dinamalar published photos and feedback of all the candidates except the two Independents including myself. Some people even called me to enquire whether I had withdrawn my candidature. It did not matter to the press that I have been contributing substantially for the good of Ooty for the past 30 years. The same press that reported my contributions for the past 30 years failed to mention a line about my candidature at the time of elections. That is our press responsibility today!!
6. Of course currency notes and bogus votes were freely distributed by the leading political parties. Even I was offered my ‘share’ of Rs. 500 in open day light. The innocent lady who distributed the case did not even understand when I explained to her how wrong her action was.
7. Bogus votes were liberally cast in the election. In one booth, during Scrutiny, I challenged about 500 votes cast with only the thumb impression, evidently of the same person. In the inquiry, all those concerned, mostly women broke down. I knew I could only punish the poor teachers who were deputed to the polling booth but cannot touch the culprits who cast the bogus votes. I magnanimously excused the polling staff and closed the matter.
I have 40 pages of such votes photographed in my mobile but cannot publish any of them for obvious reasons.
8. This time all the contestants in Ooty were Badagas. Badaga voters generally vote according to their loyalty to their village, family and region. Being born and brought up in Ooty I had no such advantage.
9. I was mainly counting on Ooty votes from the informed and knowledgeable voters. Because, they have been the biggest sufferers of neglect of Ooty. But surprisingly very few turned out to vote. I suspect most of them did not even vote. This is the basic problem. There is no point in cribbing and complaining if you are not prepared to act.
10. What is the future of Vote for Ooty? It will continue as a Think Tank and an Action Point for the rehabilitation and promotion of Ooty which will be 200 years in just seven years.