It’s a time-honoured tradition in Indian politics. Spouses, siblings, children and friends contesting elections or holding office while the real power resting with someone else is nothing new. A village in Dindigul appears to be the latest entrant to a list made famous by the likes of Laloo Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi.
Reddiyar Chattiram Panchayat Union in Dindigul has 18 wards, seven of which are represented by women. Despite this impressive ratio, the monthly meeting of the union council held on April 5 struck a jarring note when the husband of one of the woman councillors took her seat and officiated while she herself sat on the second row. What added to the shock of onlookers was the nonchalance of officials.
Local residents alleged that P Thangathai, councillor of Ward 18 from Puthukottai, has rarely been seen exercising her powers or tending to her responsibilities. Rather, her husband, Pandi handles all affairs. Some went on to claim that this had resulted in misuse of his wife’s position to dole out favours even as local officials reportedly turned a blind eye. A resident of Sorakkappatti said that despite numerous complaints to the Block Development Officer (BDO) and other officials, no measures were taken against this abuse of power.
When contacted, BDO K Nirmalai refused to comment on the issue. Pandiyaraj Pandi flatly refuted all allegations made against him, declaring that he was only assisting his wife. “Some people are trying to blame us. I do not interfere in my wife’s administrative affairs and am only helping her with welfare activities,” he argued.
Collector N Venkatachalam informed that a ‘proper’ meeting for the women councillors would be held where those engaging in abuse of power would be warned.