The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flare-up before bypoll

Chennai, Feb. 18: MDMK functionaries campaigning for the Congress candidate for the crucial Assembly bypoll in Sattankulam clashed with the ruling ADMK’s workers late last night in the Christian-dominated town of Nazareth in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin district.

The rival camps came to blows after a verbal exchange between MDMK and ADMK workers flared up when supporters of dissident Congress leader Kumradoss joined the ruling party cadre in the muscle flexing, reports reaching here from Nazareth said. At least one person on either side has been seriously injured.

Soon after the flare-up, the local church bell in Nazareth tolled past midnight in a call to people from nearby hamlets to assemble and discuss the violence, which comes close on the heels of chief minister and ADMK chief Jayalalithaa kick-starting the poll campaign.

The Sattankulam constituency is a highly sensitive segment where both the Congress and the ADMK are locked in a straight fight and are vying with each other to woo minority votes.

Residents of Nazareth, who wanted peace restored immediately in the town, observed a “total hartal” today.

Hundreds of people observed a fast inside the church premises, demanding that the Central government dispatch Central Reserve Police Force contingents to ensure a free and peaceful byelection on February 26.

The MDMK nominee in the Union Cabinet, M. Kannappan, has also demanded deployment of CRPF personnel in the constituency.

The Election Commission has instructed the chief electoral officer here not to recognise certificates issued by village administrative officers and by the Slum Clearance Board as documents for voter identification. Senior state Congress leader S.R. Balasubramoniyan had petitioned the chief electoral officer to urge the poll panel to disallow the use of such documents for the purpose of voter identification, as they provided scope for impersonation.

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