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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TN Civic Elections - 102 year old declared Elected but Certificate taken back !!

The Civic elections in Tamilnadu have thrown surprises for many parties as  the ruling AIADMK fortified its position and stood tall.


Pudukulam, an obscure village in Thiruparankundram of Madurai is in news – somehow for wrong reasons !    If ‘Age no Bar’ is the maxim, then there is no retirement from active political life……….  Decades ago, people would join Companies, stay there forever and happily retire at 60 – days have changed, more people are considering quitting job and desirous of leading a quite life after the stress and strains of the career – Exceptions are there always – only that most often it is in politics !!!

Elections in India are festivals – conducted in mega magnitudes. The rules provide that to be a member of Lok  Sabha, a person must be a citizen of India, aged 25 or over, mentally sound, should not be bankrupt and has no criminal proceedings in Court.  What is unstated is the ‘upper age limit’ that is exploited so ruthlessly by politicians at all times.

Though people do assimilate practical knowledge through expansive experience and become wiser, there would be mental and physical deterioration associated with ageing.  Dementia, the serious loss of cognitive ability is also associated with ageing.  Most often, old age impedes people’s mobility and prevents their physical activities and there perhaps needs to be ‘a reasonable upper age limit’ for any post – just as there is age for retirement from all official positions – why not for political and administrative posts also ? 

In the elections to the 9th Lok Sabha in 1989, an 89 year old candidate stood and won – he subsequently passed away in 1991 forcing by-elections to that constituency is another story.   That was - Gogineni Ranga nayukulu popularly  known as N. G. Ranga, an Indian freedom fighter, parliamentarian, and kisan  leader. Whilst he possessed all credentials for a Neta (and kept winning also !), the age at which the party offered him candidature is not right is what I personally feel !!

In the 15th Lok Sabha elections held in 2009, the Congress Candidate from Jhunjhunu Parliamentary Constituency in Rajasthan State Sis Ram Ola  was 82 years of age (1927 born) – he has representing this constituency since 1996. This veteran politician was the Union Cabinet Minister of Labour and Employment from May 23, 2004 to November 27, 2004.   Though there were some fresh and young faces in the 15th Lok Sabha, 88 year old Ram Sundar Das of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) was also elected.  Other Octogenarians include LK Advani, Ambica Banerjee, while Kailash Joshi is into the list now (at the time of this post, thought not at the time of elections).

A Centurion has outdone all of them – down in the tiny hamlet of Pudukulam in Madurai, at an age when most would require help even for a small step and when those survivors would be leading life at the mercy of others after retiring at least 4 decades ealier, a 102 year old woman (an independent candidate) by name ‘Thadahathi’ had hours of glory (though it was short lived !!)  At 102, the old woman Thadahathi was declared elected as Ward Member in the recent civic polls held in the state of Tamilnadu.   Thadahathi had come to Pudukulam village as a ten-year-old and gave birth to her first son here at the age of 17. Almost a century later, she was campaigning ahead of the polls along with her four sons, who are all above 65 years of age.

She is no ordinary person, a strong willed one who has dispensed medical care to the village for decades,  won the elections due to her positive attitude, according to P Muthuramalingam, President of the village.  "She would go and help any person in distress voluntarily," he said when asked how they expected a candidate as old as Thadahathi to be an active worker for them.  "Even at the age of 102 she works in the field and is a beneficiary of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme. She is an expert 'Maruthuvatchi' (village doctor who is conversant with traditional medicine) also, and has helped the local women deliver nearly 1,000 babies."

There were reports in sections of the Press hailing her as the oldest elected member in the local bodies in the State.  The  State Election Commission  reportedly  had declared that she  had defeated her nearest rival, also an independent, by 76 votes. She contested in the ‘cot’ symbol,  rival  Manimaran used the ‘key’ symbol.  She was quoted as saying that  her love for the village and its residents means she want to "give much more" to the cause.  She expressed confidence that as she commanded the love and respect of the people, she would be able to keep the village clean and advice the residents about it.

There were reports that her rival  Manikumar, who lost to Thadahathi in the polls,  also felt that  she is a good choice.  But quite unfortunately, the joy of victory turned to be short-lived for the 102 year old.    She was declared winner on Oct 21 evening; went to Panchayat Union Office and got her certificate of election but reportedly the Govt officials took back the election certificate on Oct 22.  It is now reported that it was a mistake on the part of the officials to have declared the winner wrongly and issuing a Certificate by mistake !!!!! “  The  Block Development Officer  is now quoted as saying  that Manimaran received 72 votes and Thadahathi around 50 votes.  It is also stated that ‘recounting is not possible now and if required the contestants will have to fight it out in the Court ”  - how unfair !!

Villagers of Veluchamynagar  think and speak the other way.  They are  quite sure about the win of Mrs Thadahathi having been witnesses to the declaration of election results for the ward no 4 of Pudukulam Panchayat. They claim Thadahathi Ammal was declared the winner by an election official on October 21, though the official statement contradicted them.  There are many villagers who have spoken to Press stating that they  had voted for Thadahathi respecting her age and service she rendered to the people. All of them expressed shock after hearing about the turn of events.

Whether it was the centenarian candidate who was afflicted with  Senility and lose of cognitive power or was it the Officials does not require any lengthier explanation

Regards - S. Sampathkumar.

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