Election to the Lok Sabha constituency of Vellore in Tamil Nadu was cancelled Tuesday, two days before the state votes, on a recommendation from the Election Commission in the wake of cash seizures, allegedly from the premises of DMK candidate Kathir Anand, son of party treasurer Duraimurugan.
President Ram Nath Kovind issued an order to rescind the Vellore parliamentary election and a government notification said the Commission was “fully satisfied that the current electoral process in Vellore has been seriously vitiated on account of unlawful activities of certain candidates and some workers of the political party”.
Bypolls to two assembly seats, Ambur and Gudiyattam, will be held on April 18 as scheduled.
The cancellation of the Lok Sabha poll drew an angry response from the DMK. Duraimurugan told The Indian Express: “It is murder of democracy, nothing else.”
The AIADMK, which had fielded A C Shanmugam, wanted Kathir Anand disqualified.
In his report to the Commission, Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo stated that cash seizure of Rs 11.48 crore along with evidence in the form of computer printouts detailing proposed assembly segment, ward and booth-wise money distribution suggested a clear-cut pattern and design to induce electors on a large scale across the Vellore parliamentary constituency.
In Vellore town and its suburbs — the constituency has 14,07,817 voters — money was distributed even on Tuesday, the last day of campaigning. Realising that an announcement was imminent, workers of both parties had given up active campaigning on the roads and at street corners.
Voters were left wondering what the hullabaloo was all about since money distribution during elections was not a new phenomenon in the state. Many said earlier action had done little to deter the parties or candidates. Mushtaq, an auto driver, said his neighbourhood was paid Rs 1,000 per vote by the ruling party and Rs 500 by Opposition.
“They stopped visible campaigns, but there was cash distribution even today. If EC cancels this, how does it help? When they cancelled R K Nagar bypoll in April 2017 and conducted it again the same year, didn’t parties pay up to Rs 6000 per vote?” he said.
Dastagir, a tailor, wondered how poll cancellation was going to help. “Did the government punish people who were caught for cash distribution in Thanjavur and Aravakurichi in 2016?” he asked, referring to the Commission’s 2016 decision to postpone assembly elections to Aravakurichi and Thanjavur constituencies.
Known largely for its leather industry and the prestigious Christian Medical College, Vellore has in recent years been facing severe water shortage, and illegal sand mining. It is home to a large working class, many working for the leather industry and traders, and others barely able to make ends meet — one reason why parties try to woo them with money.
Plea against cash-for-votes in TN
The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the counsel for Election Commission to take instructions from the poll panel on a petition which alleged payment of cash for votes by political parties in Tamil Nadu and wanted steps taken in this regard. The petition by K K Ramesh, a social worker, will be heard next on April 22.