Lok Sabha 2019
Dhinakaran has so far not registered AMMK as a party – and so, the question was whether they could collectively fight under one symbol.
PTI

TTV Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) will be able to contest as one group, with one symbol – although they have not registered themselves as a political party so far. The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Election Commission of India to allot a common symbol to the candidates contesting under the AMMK banner in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and Tamil Nadu bye-polls. However, the pressure cooker symbol under which TTV Dhinakaran won the RK Nagar bye-poll last year is unlikely to be allotted to them, as several others may have asked for it in different constituencies.

Despite launching his party in March last year, RK Nagar MLA TTV Dhinakaran has not registered AMMK with the Election Commission yet since this would mean giving up claim over the two leaves symbol.

Less than a month earlier, the Delhi High Court had ruled that the ‘two-leaves’ symbol belonged to the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, dismissing Dhinakaran’s plea. Following this, Dhinakaran petitioned the Supreme Court, seeking the pressure cooker symbol for his outfit in the upcoming elections.

Refusing Dhinakaran’s request, the apex court bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna asked why the year-old party had not registered with the Election Commission, citing Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which states, “Any association or body of individual citizens of India calling itself a political party and intending to avail itself of the provisions of this Part shall make an application to the Election Commission for its registration as a political party for the purposes of this Act.”

However, arguing on behalf of Dhinakaran, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that registering the party would mean giving the AIADMK a ‘walkover’ on their claim to the two-leaves symbol.

According to AMMK, the SC then said that AMMK can get one of the 192 free symbols available with the EC, in order to ensure a level playing field. However, candidates who emerge successful at the ballot would be considered independents, the court said.

Speaking to reporters outside the Supreme Court, Raja Senthoor Pandian, a member of Dhinakaran’s legal team, said, “The Election Commission countered that many may have sought the pressure cooker symbol earlier. On account of this we discussed with the senior lawyers and argued for any common symbol since we have to contest the elections.”

While his legal team considered the SC verdict a victory, it may be worth noting that this would make it easier for his candidates to shift loyalties if they are voted in as MLAs and MPs.

Seventeen of the 18 bye-polls due in the state are on account of these MLAs being disqualified by the Madras High Court in October last year under the Anti Defection Law for declaring their support to TTV Dhinakaran. Dhinakaran has announced poll candidates for all 39 Parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu as well as the 18 bye-poll segments.