Buy poll? EC cancels RK Nagar bypoll as AIADMK Amma accused of distributing cash
The Election Commission has cancelled the by-election RK Nagar Assembly constituency following large-scale distribution of money to voters allegedly by AIADMK Amma candidate and party general secretary TT Dinakaran.
Though candidate of other parties may also have given money, they have not been able to match the money power of Dinakaran.
Income-tax officials, after raids in 50 locations in the Tamil Nadu, have disclosed to the media that Dinakaran had entrusted a total Rs 89 crore to six ministers, including Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy, besides a member of Parliament for distribution among the 2.6 lakh voters in the constituency.
The details of money meant for voters were contained in a diary found in the house of Health Minister C Vijayabhaskar which was the raided . The Tamil Nadu government’s special representative smuggled it out and tore it up and it was caught on camera by television channels.
Thereupon Vijayabhaskar claimed that nothing incriminating was found in his house, not even Rs 10,000 cash after the raid which started at 6 AM. and ended at 4 AM the next day.
Income-tax officials told media that they had already photo-copied the diary. They leaked a page from it through Whatsapp to the media, containing the list of Ministers and others tasked with distributing the money to voters.
The list found in the diary including besides Palanisamy, Ministers KA Sengottayan , Dindigul C Sreenivasan, P Thangamani, S P Velusamy and D Jayakumar, besides member of Rajya Sabha Vaithiyalingam.
They were each given cash between Rs 11-14 crore and tasked with covering 85 per cent of the voters.
For the first time in the history of India, the Election Commission rescinded elections from Aravakuruchi and Thanjavur during the May 2016 Assembly elections following similar widespread use of cash. They were nowhere near the the figure of 89 crore.
Elections to these two constituencies were freshly notified and held in November.
In the case of RK Nagar, the vacancy caused by the death of Chief Minister J Jayaalithaa will have to be filled within six months, that is by June 2 .
Now that the EC has cancelled the poll, a fresh notification has to be given, which will take time. Though , it may be one way to see if Dinakaran opts out, the poll panel will be cutting it fine to meet the June 2 deadline.
The Opposition DMK, BJP and the CPM demand that Dinakaran be disqualified following evidence unearthed by the IT raids. However, it is not legally feasible. Even before he entered the fray, the Madras High Court upheld an order of the Enforcement Directorate imposing a fine of Rs 28 crore on him for FERA violations in import of equipment for JJ TV, forerunner to the present Jaya TV.
Some also approached the Madras High Court petitioning that since he was an economic offender, he should be barred from contesting the election.
However, the Representation of the People Act clearly lays down the criminal offences which will attract disqualification. Since the fine imposed by the ED is on a parallel proceeding while the criminal case is still pending , he cannot be disqualified. But the threat will remain if the criminal cases ends in conviction. At the moment, he is entitled to contest. What has shocked the EC is the brazen manner in which Dinakaran and his associates, including some ministers, have gone about distributing money in the constituency. Local media and parties in the fray like the DMK have already submitted video evidence to the poll panel.
As the government is in Dinakaran’s hands, no action has been taken. A flying squad which raided a house was confronted by angry women who stripped and dared them to search.
Dinakaran sees the Modi government’s hand in the IT raids and the subsequent clamour by political parties behind the postponement of elections. “ I shall will win hands down whether the election is held on April 12 or May 12,” he has asserted.
DMK working president M K Stalin has demanded Palanisamy'sresignation following the IT raids and recovery of black money. He has also joined the chorus that Dinakaran should be disqualified.
After getting briefed by the IT authorities, Director(Expenditure) of the Election Commission Vikram Batra, who came here to oversee the by-election, and Tamil Nadu’s Chief Electoral Officer Rakesh Lakhoni went to New Delhi for consultations with the EC, after which the decision was taken.