The Election Commission’s decision to cancel the RK Nagar bypoll on grounds of “vitiated atmosphere” was based on actual cash seizures totalling Rs 31.91 lakh and “some loose sheets”, found with the Tamil Nadu Health Minister’s accountant, “indicating” distribution of Rs 89 crore to politicians for bribing voters.
RK Nagar is the third assembly seat where polls have been rescinded on account of money being used to influence voters. Last year, the EC cancelled elections in Thanjavur and Aravakurichi seats in Tamil Nadu for the same reason, except that the total seizures in this case amounted to Rs 7.12 crore cash, 429.24 litres of liquor and 33.256 kg of silver worth Rs 9 lakh from Aravakurichi, and Rs 75.2 lakh cash and 2,145.12 litres of liquor from Thanjavur, up to May 15, 2016.
As per EC’s records, a total of 35 FIRs were registered based on complaints of cash or gift distribution in RK Nagar, which include incidents such as Rs 78,000 seized from three people who were allegedly distributing cash to voters on Satyamoorthy Street on April 4 and Rs 89,000 cash confiscated from six persons, who were also allegedly bribing voters in Vinoba Nagar on April 5. In another example quoted by the EC in its 29-page order, a man named Thiru Krishnamoorthy was arrested for handing out money to electors at Veeraraghavan Street, New Washermenpet and Rs 6,420 cash was seized from him.
The biggest one-time cash seizure in the RK Nagar seat, among the examples quoted by EC in its order, took place on April 5 when a flying squad officer confiscated a total of Rs 9.9 lakh from 12 people allegedly distributing cash in Ajis Nagar, Korukkupet.
According to the EC, the loose sheets found by the IT department at the state health minister’s premises were “incriminating” in nature as they provided details of Rs 89 crore distributed among different politicians for bribing voters.
The poll panel has often lamented the excessive influence of black money in elections. Even the demonetisation of Rs 500 and 1,000 notes, announced last November 8, had failed to arrest cash flow in the recently-concluded assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa. The total cash seized across the five states increased almost four-fold to Rs 190 crore as opposed 2012 elections.
However, the four-fold jump in cash seizure didn’t lead to countermanding of polls in any seat.