The Election Commission on Sunday night cancelled the RK Nagar by-poll in Tamil Nadu scheduled for April 12 over allegations of parties bribing the electorate for votes. The polling monitor said that it would conduct the elections “in due course when the vitiating effect created by the distribution of money and gift items...gets removed with the passage of time”. “...Allowing the current electoral process to proceed and conduct the poll in the constituency...in such vitiated atmosphere would severely jeopardise the conduct of free and fair elections,” it added.
The decision was made days after the Income Tax Department conducted raids on Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar’s properties in Chennai. On Saturday, the Central Board of Direct Taxes had submitted its report to the EC in Delhi, alleging that the VK Sasikala camp of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had kept aside nearly Rs 90 crore to be distributed among voters to gain support for their candidate TTV Dinakaran.
In its reports, the I-T Department has named seven senior AIADMK leaders, including Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, Forest Minister Dindigul Sreenivasan and Finance Minister Jayakumar. Vijayabhaskar is believed to have admitted that the party gave money to voters.
Campaigning for the by-election to the RK Nagar seat has been intense as this constituency was earlier held by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. Both Sasikala’s AIADMK faction and the O Panneerselvam camp have accused each other of buying votes.
This is the second time that the Election Commission has cancelled elections in Tamil Nadu following cash-for-votes allegations. In May 2016, the poll panel had cancelled the elections in Thanjavur and Aravakurichi constituencies ahead of the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections after it was found that both the AIADMK and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam were bribing voters.