As the Srirangam assembly constituency gears up for bypoll on February 13, opposition leaders have complained to the Election Commission that the ruling AIADMK is using the ‘Thirumangalam formula’—referring to rigging and buying votes—to retain the segment. The constituency fell vacant after former CM J Jayalalithaa, who represented Srirangam, was convicted in a disproportionate assets case.
Seeking immediate action from the Election Commission, DMK chief M Karunanidhi on Monday alleged that the AIADMK was distributing money to voters in the constituency. He said the police, district administration and Election Commission have joined hands to facilitate this distribution, fixing a price for every vote.
The DMK chief alleged that second-level officers posted in Srirangam for election duty are doing the ‘job’ for the AIADMK. “I condemn the anti-democratic act of distributing money to voters and attacking other party workers on behalf of the DMK and insist the EC to protect the ideals of democracy promptly,” he said.
Karunanidhi, however, did not mention ‘Thirumangalam formula’ as it was during the 2009 Thirumangalam by-election during his tenure that the term came up. With the Congress fielding no candidate for Srirangam bypoll, DMK and BJP are the two major rivals for AIADMK. Speaking to The Indian Express last week, E V K S Elangovan, president of Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, said the party decided not to contest as the AIADMK would go to any extent to win the election with money and muscle power.
“I am told they have already distributed Rs 1,000 per vote and plans to spend Rs 4,000 per head before polling. We do not want to waste our time and resources in such a drama,” he said. A senior police official in Srirangam said that besides party cadres, local councillors and panchayat officials are also being engaged in distributing money. The amount varies from place to place and is mostly paid on the count of ration cards.
The ‘Thirumangalam formula’ is not just about bribing and rigging, but also involves intimidation, threats and violence. In such case, police will remain mute spectators ensuring no arrests. On Sunday, AIADMK cadres allegedly attacked BJP and CPM candidates in Srirangam. Eight persons were injured and several vehicles damaged. BJP candidate M Subramanian demanded the police and the district administration to evacuate ‘all outsiders’ brought in by the ruling party. Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan, who was in the constituency for campaigning, demanded the authorities to tighten security to prevent the money flow. BJP state leadership has already filed written complaints against the ruling party, alleging that they are misusing powers and bribing voters.