INCOME Tax officials have claimed that their raids on 35 premises belonging to Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar in Chennai and other parts of the state on Friday have allegedly revealed payoffs amounting to Rs 89.65 crore by the AIADMK (Amma) faction to voters of R K Nagar constituency. The seat, which fell vacant following J Jayalalithaa’s death, will see a bypoll on April 12.
A senior I-T officer said they had shared the documents with the Election Commission for further action. Sources said State Election Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni would meet the EC in Delhi.
The EC said they had sought a report from the Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer and the observer for the bypoll, and would decide their future course of action based on it. Sources talked of the possibility of the bypoll being cancelled.
Said an I-T official, “Besides documents indicating payoffs, we have video evidence of partymen distributing currency.” The official said the 120 vidoes they had received on WhatsApp featured men of both the AIADMK (Amma) and DMK.
Vijayabaskar, whose name allegedly features in the documents with the I-T, remained unavailable on Saturday. Messages to him on the I-T’s alleged findings went unanswered. On Friday, Vijayabaskar had told the media that he did not even have Rs 10,000, and that the I-T raids were politically motivated.
The AIADMK (Amma) faction said the raids showed the Centre was trying to help rebel O Panneerselvam, who is contesting the bypoll. Party spokesperson Nanjil Sampath said the BJP was trying to make a “backdoor entry” into the state. “BJP state president Tamilisai Soundararajan and senior leader L Ganeshan are claiming that the I-T raids were not politically motivated and that the BJP at the Centre has no role in it. Who will believe that claim?”
Sampath also claimed that the “evidence” against Vijaybaskar “were not documents, they were forged papers by I-T officers”.
The documents, accessed by The Sunday Express, allegedly list the amount distributed in various wards of the constituency by the AIADMK (Amma) faction, which owes allegiance to V K Sasikala, as well as the total number of voters paid.
I-T sources said another document they had seized showed alleged bribes received by a state minister in November 2016. This includes alleged commission for procurement of chemicals (Rs 3 lakh), furniture (Rs 25 lakh), and drugs for Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation Limited (a government organisation facing many allegations of corruption).
An under-secretary rank officer in the minister’s office, a senior government doctor who handled media queries during Jayalalithaa’s long illness, and an official of MGR Medical University are among those who allegedly figure in connection with the payments.
MGR Medical University Vice-Chancellor S Geethalakshmi was among those raided by the I-T on Friday. Geethalakshmi too did not respond to queries.