THOOTHUKUDI: Polling for the posts of ten Directors in the Tamilnad Mercantile Bank was discontinued on Friday after it was found that three men had tried to cast votes in the hotly contested election illegally. Judge Balasubramanian, who has been overseeing the election process, consequently ordered the immediate suspension of polling at the first Annual General Body meeting of the bank in six years. The bank has been ordered them to resume polling on Tuesday.
According to the Police, as soon as the 93rd Annual General Body Meeting(AGM) of TMB started on Friday morning, it was drowned in heated arguments between supporters of the two factions vying for control of the bank - those supporting the current establishment, comprised of members of the Pioneer Group, Sivakasi and 18 Foreign Institutional Investors, and those supporting mining baron S Vaikundarajan and his bid for control.
By afternoon, members of the Vaikundarajan faction submitted a complaint to supervising Judge claiming that more than 1,000 proxy votes of their supporters could not be cast and the opposite group had made few changes in the system to favour them. On inquiry, the claims were found to be true, say sources. In the meantime, three supporters of the Pioneer group led faction tried to cast illegal votes, but were spotted by supporters of the other faction. The offenders were then handed over to the Police and enquiries were conducted seperately at the Thoothukudi South Police station.
Following the incidents, the judge cancelled the voting process and ordered that it would resume on Tuesday.
It is worth remembering that the 87th AGM was conducted in 2010 and for the past six years the AGMs have not been conducted owing to the serious disputes regarding ownership and control of the bank. The bank, founded in 1921 as the Nadar Bank, has its shareholding between several investors - each with small shareholdings. The bank’s troubles are not new and have continued ever since 1994, when a large group of shareholders sold over 67% of the shareholding to the Ruia-led Essar Group. The sale was roundly opposed by the Nadar community and the Ruias eventually sold the shares to entrepreneur C Sivasankaran. Eventually, a group of Nadars raised enough capital to buy around half the stake with Sivasankaran. The rest was sold to a group of foreign investors who managed to get their hands on 24.93%.
Their holding is being contested in the courts, with the Madras High Court observing that the arrangement by which the group manages the stake lacks transparency.