Chennai/New Delhi: The Madras High Court Thursday declined to dismiss a case against Home Minister P. Chidambaram for allegedly manipulating the 2009 elections in his Lok Sabha constituency, prompting the BJP and Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK to demand his resignation.
In a clear setback to the minister, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court gave the ruling in response to a petition challenging Chidambaram’s election from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu.
Holding that Chidambaram has to face the petition filed by AIADMK’s Raja Kannappan, one of those who lost from Sivaganga, the court struck down two of the 29 charges – use of bank officials and banks to induce voters.
The court said he would face the remaining 27 charges and appear before the court when required. It asked the minister to “fully cooperate” during the trial.
Chidambaram had sought the dismissal of Kannappan’s petition and exemption from personal appearance.
In the close contest, Chidambaram polled 334,348 votes and Kannappan 330,994 in 2009, giving the former a narrow victory margin of 3,354 votes. Kannappan has said that around 1,400 votes polled by him were credited to Chidambaram.
G. Saravanakumar, counsel for Kannappan, told IANS in Chennai: “The court has decided there is material fact and substance on the corrupt electoral practices done on behalf of Chidambaram.”
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary J. Jayalalithaa said the prime minister should drop Chidambaram from his cabinet if he did not resign on his own.
Accusing Chidambaram of fradulently winning the polls, she said: “As he has to face criminal cases now, it will be blot on the country’s democracy if he continues in office. Hence Chidambaram should resign.”
The BJP agreed. “We appeal to the prime minister to throw him out of the cabinet immediately,” BJP president Nitin Gadkari said in Delhi. “After manipulating the results of the polls, and being attached to corruption cases one after the other, what more evidence does the prime minister need against him?”
The government rejected the call for Chidambaram’s ouster. “The demand for Chidambaram’s resignation is ridiculous,” said Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanaswamy. He has not lost the case and it has got nothing to do with his functioning as home minister,” said Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh.