Chennai : In an unprecedented move in the history of Tamil Nadu”s electoral politics, the Election Commission of India (EC) on Saturday decided to rescind its poll notification in two constituencies following conclusive evidence of bribery of voters on a large scale. Quite shockingly, the EC has noted that bribing of voters continued in one of the constituencies after the postponement of polls in Aravakurichi constituency in Karur district and Thanjavur constituency, both in central Tamil Nadu, on charges of irregularities.
Tamil Nadu went to polls on May 16 but polling in the two constituencies was deferred at the eleventh hour – first in Aravakurichi and then in Thanjavur. Originally the deferred polls were to take place on May 23 but the EC withheld its decision after the PMK and BJP”s candidates moved the Madras High Court seeking postponing of the elections.
Meanwhile, late on Thursday night, Tamil Nadu Governor in a controversial move, at the behest of the two AIADMK candidates in these seats, wrote to the EC recommending that polling be held by June 1.
Amidst all this, the EC on Saturday issued a detailed order in which it took the step of rescinding the poll notification in the two constituencies.
It all began with the EC and Income Tax Department seizing Rs 4.77 crore cash and 200 saris and dhotis from one Anbunathan in Karur district. Diaries seized from his house indicated that his “proximity to some prominent Ministers of the Tamil Nadu Government belonging to the AIADMK.” They also seized currency counting machines from his home. Former Transport Minister Senthil Balaji was fielded in Aravakurichi by the AIADMK.
In a parallel action, the Income Tax Department raided the house of the DMK candidate K C Palanisamy and his son KCP Sivaraman and seized Rs 1.98 crore including Rs 95 lakh from the former.
In Thanjavur, the EC found evidence of the AIADMK candidate having distribut-ed at least Rs 6 crore to the voters.
Further, a detailed inquiry showed that at least Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 has been paid to each voter in Aravakurichi. “The Rs 8.3 crore that has been recovered during the election process is only the tip of the iceberg,” the EC report said.
“Even after postponement of elections in one of the constituencies, 11 complaints were received between May 17 and 18 and a cash seizure was made amounting to Rs 5.72
lakh. From the recovery of documents seized during raids, ample evidence gathered that reveals direct linkage with the parties and syndicate of money distribution,” the report added.
The EC has noted that in one case where the voter is abroad, the parties had left the “due share of money at the residence of his parents even though the parents refused to accept the bribe.”
Curiously, those detained by the EC have claimed that the seized noting indicating bribery of voters pertained to the 2014 Parliamentary elections and not the Assembly polls. However, the ECI rejected this contention citing evidence of cash seizure and the list of voters which appeared to be as current as February 2016.
The EC therefore concluded that the atmosphere in the two constituencies has been vitiated and it would seriously jeopardize the conduct of elections now. Hence it decided to rescind its poll notification in the two constituencies.
The EC also said in its order that the Governor should not have sent his recommendation to the poll body to hold the elections by June 1.