The bypoll to the RK Nagar constituency in Chennai has been cancelled by the Election Commission. That is not enough; The Commission must take action and bring parties to books.
The Election Commission has cancelled the April 12 bypoll to the RK Nagar Assembly constituency in Chennai over the issue of use of rampant money power. But this is just the first step. The Commission should take action against the parties that vitiated the poll process.
The RK Nagar constituency was represented by the late J Jayalalithaa.
In a statement, the commission said the electoral process has been “seriously vitiated” by parties through use of money power.
Since the commission must have acted on tangible evidence, criminal complaints must be filed against the candidates and parties that vitiated the poll process. Moving one step ahead, the EC must debar the candidates involved and send the parties to the brink of de-recognition.
Only then will a message be sent loud and clear across India to candidates who throw money and goods to win votes.
The Election Commission has been seen as being very soft on those who violate electoral laws with impunity. Just sending routine warnings is not enough. These warnings should be translated to action on the ground.
But why RK Nagar alone? There have been so many instances of breach of poll ethics and rules by candidates and parties who have been using money power across India. But since action has begun, let it spread to other constituencies as well in the future.
The commission said the RK Nagar by-election will be held in “due course when the vitiating effect created by the distribution of money and gifts to allure the electors gets removed with the passage of time”.
The EC held several rounds of meeting with Tamil Nadu election officials before deciding to call off the election notification.
“The Commission is fully satisfied that the current electoral process…in Tamil Nadu has been seriously vitiated on account of unlawful activities of the candidates and political parties and their workers by bribing the electors and unlawfully inducing them by offering money and other gifts of consumable items to woo them in their favour,” the EC said in an order late on Sunday night.
The order comes days after searches on premises of an associate of Vijayabaskar revealed routing of Rs 89 crore for “distribution to voters” in RK Nagar Assembly constituency.
Vijayabaskar is a loyalist of AIADMK (Amma) faction’s candidate T T V Dinakaran.
Vijayabaskar, who is the first state minister to come under the lens of taxmen, is among the key campaigners in the bypolls.
There were also several complaints of alleged money distribution by AIADMK’s Amma faction.
The seat fell vacant after the death of the then chief minister J Jayalalithaa on December 5 and the bypoll is being viewed as a battle of prestige for the two factions of the AIADMK. The AIADMK (Amma) faction is led by V K Sasikala. The other faction is led by former chief minister O Panneerselvam.
“Many complaints were received by the ECI on possibilities of inducement of electors by distributing cash and gifts in innovative forms like tokens, prepaid phone recharge coupons, newspaper subscription, milk tokens, money transfer in no frill accounts in banks and even mobile wallet payment to mobile numbers,” the EC said.
“Generally in an assembly constituency, only 3 FSTs (Flying Squad Teams) and 3 SSTs (Static Surveillance Teams) are deployed during any election, but for the R K Nagar constituency, the deployment of these squads was increased manifold and total of 61 teams were deployed keeping in view the sensitiveness of the constituency and past experience.” it said.
On May 27 last, the EC had recommended to the Tamil Nadu Governor to cancel the notification to hold polls to the Arvakurichi and Thanjavur Assembly constituencies following evidence that a large sum of money was used to influence the voters there.