Tamil Nadu's opposition party ADMK is on the brink of losing its lone representation in the Lok Sabha as the Madras High Court has on Thursday - July 6 pronounced the verdict of annulling the victory of ADMK's MLA O P Ravindranath Kumar, who got elected from the Theni Lok Sabha constituency in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Ravindranath Kumar is the son of O Panneerselvam (OPS), a former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and expelled ADMK leader.
For Panneerselvam, who endured back-to-back setbacks from losing the party leadership to his rival Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) to struggling with his weak political base, the verdict from the Madras High Court annulling his son's victory as a Lok Sabha MP has come as a yet another blow for his political career. O P Ravindranath Kumar is the lone MP of ADMK in Lok Sabha and as his victory has been put on hold, the party will most likely lose its representation in the Lok Sabha.
The high court verdict has come at a high time when the next Lok Sabha polls are just months away and when OPS was hoping to secure a seat for his son again for the second time. ADMK, that won 37 Lok Sabha seats out of 39 in Tamil Nadu in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, had a different fate five years later as it has won only one seat in the 2019 general elections. O P Ravindranath Kumar was that one MP and he won the polls by defeating the Congress candidate EVKS Elangovan in a margin of over 70,000 votes.
While ADMK had faced a historical debacle in the 2019 general elections, O P Ravindranath's victory came as a respite for OPS as the latter worked his fingers to the bone to ensure that his son won the election from his home turf of Theni and enter the parliament. In the years later, though he had a tussle with EPS, OPS lobbied with the central ruling BJP to win a berth for his son in the Union Ministry. However, he failed in his mission and later, he also failed in his mission of taking over the party.
Now, Ravindranath has been pushed to face a fiasco of losing his representation in the Lok Sabha. The verdict from the Madras High Court was made possible by a plea filed by Milany, a voter from Theni and he alleged that in his 2019 election affidavit, Ravindranath Kumar had only disclosed agriculture and business as his income sources and concealed his salary as a director of a private company.
Milany has also alleged that Ravindranath had bribed voters and to support his allegation of voter bribery, petitioner Milany had presented a video clip that circulated during the election in which the voters were seen being bribed. Milany had also disclosed a case that was lodged by another individual with this regard. The high court took the petition for the hearing since April 2022.
The petition was heard by Justice SS Sundar and after the hearings, the high court had on Thursday pronounced a verdict in which it has annulled the victory of ADMK's Ravindranath Kumar under the charges of concealing his income sources in his election affidavit. In the verdict, the High Court had observed that Ravindranath had concealed the income from his real estate business.
Besides excluding the salary as the director of Vani Fabrics in his election affidavit, Ravindranath had also concealed several of his income sources. While he has moveable assets worth Rs 4.16 crore in 2019, he had only disclosed Rs 1.35 crore as his moveable assets. Furthermore, the High Court has also said that the then Returning Officer in his constituency has failed to properly examine his affidavit and his assets.
The court noted that accepting Ravindranath's election nomination papers was against the law, due to which his victory has been annulled. On the other hand, the High Court had kept the verdict of annulling his victory on hold to facilitate Ravindranath Kumar to file an appeal. The order will be kept on hold for thirty days and it has been expected that Ravindranath will move an appeal to the Supreme Court, challenging the High Court's verdict of nullifying his victory.
If Supreme Court upholds the High Court verdict, Ravindranath Kumar will lose his MP post and ADMK will have no representation in the Lok Sabha. The verdict has put Ravindranath's political venture in peril and has skewed his political course. Responding to the verdict, Congress leader EVKS Elangovan, who was defeated by Ravindranath in Theni in the 2019 general elections, had welcomed the judgment and termed Ravindranath's victory as unlawful. He further said that the judgment has shown that justice prevails in the country.