Chennai: Actor Vishal Krishna’s nomination papers for the bypoll in Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar (RK Nagar) Assembly constituency were rejected on Tuesday by Returning Officer K. Velusamy after two of the 10 persons who proposed his candidature claimed that their signatures had been forged.

The actor, however, alleged that the two proposers made the allegations after they were threatened.

The nomination papers filed by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa were also rejected as she had left a number of mandatory columns blank.

Chennai District Election Officer D. Karthikeyan was quoted as saying by The Hindu that the Returning Officer’s order “is a quasi-judicial order and cannot be changed.”

An Election Commission official said once nomination papers are rejected, the only recourse available to an affected candidate would be to file an election petition in the Madras High Court, challenging the Returning Officer’s decision. “You cannot even appeal before the District Election Officer or the Election Commission,” the official said, pointing out that an election process cannot be stayed by the court once it is notified.

As per the provisions of the Representation of People Act, the candidature of an Independent candidate must be proposed by 10 persons residing in the constituency from where the candidate is filing his nomination papers.

The Returning Officer said in his order that while scrutinising the nomination papers of Mr. Vishal, two persons – K. Sumathy and Deepan, whose names figured among the list of proposers – made a representation to him that their signatures were forged.

Vishal rejected the allegations and released an audio clip containing a purported telephonic conversation between him and a man related to Ms. Sumathy. The man was heard claiming that some supporters of AIADMK candidate E. Madhusudanan had threatened Sumathy's family members to lodge a complaint that her signature was forged.

However, Mr. Velusamy late at night issued an order rejecting the actor’s nomination papers saying that the veracity of the person’s claim in the audio clip could not be ascertained. The order said the required number of 10 proposers had not validly proposed the candidature of Mr. Vishal, and hence, he had not fulfilled the conditions for valid nomination.

Sad Reality; RIP Democracy

Vishal, upon learning that his nomination papers were rejected, staged a dharna on the road in Tondiarpet where the office of the Returning Officer is located, alleging foul play.

An hour later, the actor, who met the Returning Officer with his supporters, told media that the officials had reversed their decision and accepted his nomination papers. He went on to thank the Election Commission officials for doing the “right thing”. “Everything was investigated in the right manner and the EC has given its judgement. I don’t want to go into details about who’s against me, who is trying to thwart my nomination and such things,” the actor said.

The actor also added that he would now go to the constituency and meet the people, and undertake a door-to-door campaign from Wednesday. “Everything has been a fight right from filing the nomination to the nomination being accepted. If something good has to happen, there will be obstacles. We have seen it already,” he said referring to the elections to the Tamil Film Producers Council and the Nadigar Sangam.

Vishal also thanked some Independents who were at the Returning Officer’s office for extending their support after his papers were initially rejected. He also tweeted, “After much struggle, my nomination for the RK Nagar election is finally accepted.... Truth Always Triumphs !! #JusticeServed#DemocracyPrevails”.

Objecting to the Returning Officer’s ‘decision’ a large number of AIADMK cadre assembled outside the office of the Returning Officer and demanded that the actor’s papers be rejected.

Sometime later, the actor again launched a hashtag #DemocracyDied saying his nomination was rejected after he left the Returning Officer’s officer.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission announced that of the 145 nominations received, only 72 were accepted and the rest were rejected on various grounds.

In Deepa Jayakumar’s case, a scrutiny of her affidavit showed that she had left the section of “Details of Assets and Liabilities in Rupees” blank and even failed to fill up the column seeking details of highest educational qualification. Around 10.30pm, she arrived at the Returning Officer’s office to record her objection.

The Returning Officer also rejected the nomination papers of MC Chandra Sekar, the son of MG Chakrapani, the brother of former Chief Minister MGR. “The officials rejected my nomination papers without any valid reason,” he alleged.

But Vishal wasn't the only one to lose out the chance to contest the by-election that is expected to see a high-decibel election battle. The returning officer had earlier on Tuesday also rejected papers of J Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa Jayakumar because she had failed to fill several columns in her election affidavit. Ms Jayakumar has called it "political vendetta".

The field is still crowded with big names for the bye-election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms Jayalalithaa exactly one year ago today. It's a prestige battle for the ruling AIADMK which needs to retain the seat to prove that it is not in complete disarray after its powerful leader died. It has fielded a senior leader, E Madhusudanan, as its candidate.

Mr Madhusudanan has represented RK Nagar before in the state assembly and is seen to have influence among Telugu people, who make up a sizeable chunk of voters in Chennai constituency.