CHENNAI: Will the popular Chithirai Thiruvizha in Madurai affect the participation of people in the Lok Sabha elections on April 18? The police have expressed “difficulty” in providing additional security in view of the annual Brahmotsavam at the ancient Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, which attracts lakhs of devotees from various parts of the State. Some political parties have demanded that the election commission extend the poll timings on April 18 because of the festival.
Taking cognisance, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Satyabrata Sahoo has sought a detailed report from the Madurai district collector. “The Madurai Collector had said April 19 is a local holiday and this was conveyed to the Election Commission. Though no complaint or petition has been received in this regard, as the media has raised the issue now, we have sought a detailed report from the Collector,” Mr. Sahoo said
On Sunday, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora announced that Tamil Nadu would go to polls during the second phase on April 18. When the CEO informed the media that the by-election to 18 vacant Assembly constituencies would be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha election, he was told that the dates coincided with the annual Chithirai Thiruvizha, which attracted several lakhs of devotees from Madurai and various parts of the State.
Speaking to reporters in the Temple City on Monday, Madurai district collector S. Natarajan confirmed that the administration had been asked to give particulars about holidays in the district.
“We have been asked for holiday dates in the district. We have informed that April 19 is a (local) holiday on the day of Chithirai. That's what the Election Commission asked us and that's what we have replied. The representation (on the dates) coinciding with the festival would be taken to the notice of the Election Commission,” he said.
Also, the collector indicated that areas affected by the festival could witness an extension in polling time on the day of voting to enable voters to exercise their franchise.
Representatives of political parties, who attended an all-party meeting convened by Madurai district collector and election officer S. Natarajan, expressed concern that the people would not be in a position to participate in the democratic exercise owing to the important car festival at the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple.
The district administration is ready to conduct polls as scheduled. About 30 flying squads besides 30 static squads, video surveillance teams and other monitoring machinery were in place, he said.
However, in his press briefing, the CEC said religious festivals had, in fact, been taken into account.
“While finalising the poll dates, examination schedules of various state boards, CBSE, other relevant factors like various festivals including festivals which have religious bindings (for example, when people are fasting, etc), harvest season in certain parts of the country as well as the information obtained from the weather department are also adequately factored in,” he said.
The Chithirai festival is celebrated during the Tamil month of Chitirai and is one of the longest celebrated festivals in the world. The festival marks the coronation (Pattabishekam) of Goddess Meenakshi and Thirukkalyanam (wedding) with Lord Sundareswarar, followed by the journey of Lord Azhagar, especially Lord Kallazhagar entering the Vaigai river.
This festival attracts even foreign tourists....