New Delhi: The Election Commission on Sunday cancelled the bye-election, earlier scheduled for Wednesday in RK Nagar, after investigations led to the discovery of a scam where voters were being offered incentives in the form of cash and other materials.
In its elaborate order, the commission said that considering its duty “to conduct free and fair elections and to uphold the purity of election and after taking into account all the facts and circumstances,” it is satisfied that R K Nagar poll process has been “seriously vitiated”.
The decision comes after the Income Tax Department (I-T Dept) secured documents from Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar’s premises, revealing that Rs 89 crore was distributed by Sasikala Natarajan faction in RK Nagar assembly constituency to voters ahead of the April 12 by polls.
As per sources, the revelation brings more trouble for Sasikala Natarajan – currently in jail for the DA case against her – as the EC will now examine the validity of her appointment as interim general secretary of the ruling AIADMK faction.
The decision defers the polling proceedings for a minimum of three months and the body will have to reissue a new date for the same.
The by-election to fill the vacancy in RK Nagar “shall be held by the commission in due course when the vitiating effect created by the distribution of money and gift items to lure the electors gets removed with the passage of time, and the atmosphere in the constituency becomes conducive to the holding of free and fair election,” said a 29-page statement signed by chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi and his two associates and election commissioners A K Joti and O P Rawat.
Delving deep into the documents obtained by the I-T sleuths, the election body has said that people in the area were bribed in both cash and other forms to pull in the votes for the Sasikala camp in the polls.
Information suggests that the Sasikala camp through various channels or directly, gave phone recharge coupons, newspaper subscriptions and even milk tokens to rope in their votes.
It has also come to the fore that money was sent to several people via mobile wallets as well. People were also given numerous gifts – from sarees for women to hats and lamps, and a lot more. More than Rs 4,000 was paid to every individual voter.
The Cash-for-votes politics has been grilled by the opposition OPS camp and the other political parties as well.
Although the Sasikala camp has blamed rival parties, including the BJP for the allegations, the documents clearly show how the AIADMK (Amma) party was trying to win over peoples’ votes using material wealth.
While TTV Dinakaran, the candidate for the RK Nagar constituency representing the Sasikala camp, alleged that election commission does not want him to win, the EC stands firm on its decision and has promised through investigation before taking any further decisions.
Several ministers from the party including state health minister Vijayabasker, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, Forest Minister Dindigul Sreenivasan and Finance Minister Jayakumar have come after the scanner.
All the aforementioned names were reportedly given targets to complete the distributions to win votes. Despite heavy criticism the Sasikala camp has denied the allegations.
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