Chennai: An Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer in Tamil Nadu has apparently run afoul of the state`s ruling DMK for implementing the Election Commission`s model code of conduct ahead of the April 13 elections.
Soon after U Sagayam took over as Madurai district collector, after the poll panel March 19 ordered transfer of four district collectors including his predecessor, the DMK`s local unit complained to the state`s chief electoral officer (CEO) Praveen Kumar that he advocated the need for a change in government while addressing students in a school.
Sagayam denied the charge.
"There is no need for a government officer to say that. And I did not say that," Sagayam told a news agency on phone from Madurai, around 450 km from Chennai.
He is also facing allegations from a subordinate who complained Sagayam pressurised him to lodge police complaints against the DMK.
Speaking to reporters from his bed in a private hospital in Madurai, Returning Officer (East) S. Sukumaran said Sagayam was forcing him to lodge police complaints against DMK functionaries which resulted in his blood pressure shooting up and leading him to get medical attention.
Sukumaran has also requested CEO Praveen Kumar to relieve him of election duties.
Sagayam also refuted the charge.
"It is untrue. It is a drama staged by vested interests. I am discharging my duty to ensure free and fair elections in Tamil Nadu," he said.
"Even before the CEO got to see the letter, television channels were beaming his (Sukumaran`s) complaint letter. I wonder how," Sagayam said.
The Madurai police Friday registered a complaint of assault against Chief Minister M Karunanidhi`s son and Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister MK Alagiri and other DMK men on a complaint from Tehsildar (local revenue official) and Assistant Returning Officer Kalimuthu.
Alagiri had been to a temple and the election commission flying squad including a videographer came to shoot the visit. According to Sagayam, Kalimuthu was assaulted and a complaint had to be registered.
The DMK party is upset ever since the Election Commission had ordered the transfer of four district collectors and several senior police officials including some posted in Madurai.
Karunanidhi had come down heavily on the poll panel for transferring the officials without informing the state government.
The DMK had also objected to the checking of vehicles and seizure of unaccounted cash to curb bribing of voters.
This is not the first time Sagayam, who had become the first IAS officer in the state to have publicly declared his assets, has been embroiled in controversy.
Joining the Tamil Nadu Civil Services 20 years ago and elevated to the IAS in 2001, Sagayam is known for the battles he had fought against the sand mining mafia, soft drink MNCs, hotels, gas dealers and others.
He was severely assaulted when he tried to prevent illegal mining in Kanchipuram district.
In 1999, Sagayam ordered a soft drink multinational in Tamil Nadu to close its plant because it was bottling drinks that were unfit for human consumption. The order was later overruled by the Madras High Court.
When Sagayam was deputy commissioner of civil supplies, he raided hotels that were using cooking gas meant for domestic use and not the more expensive commercial cylinders.
Sagayam is also credited with recovering prime land worth over Rs 200 crore encroached by a leading hotel chain. This happened when he was the district revenue officer.
While serving in Namakkal, Sagayam in 2009 declared on the district administration website his asset details - a bank balance of Rs 7,172 and a house in Madurai valued at Rs 900,000.
Speaking about his current assignment Sagayam said: "It is certainly a challenging one. I will try to ensure free and fair elections."