The Lok Sabha election in Vellore Parliamentary constituency of Tamil Nadu was cancelled on Tuesday amid allegations of suspected use of money to influence voters. President Ram Nath Kovind accepted the recommendation of the Election Commission of India, dated April 14, to rescind the polls.
The constituency was scheduled to go to polls on Thursday, along with the rest of the state.
The Election Commission said in a statement that it recommended that the polls be countermanded “based on detection of a systematic design to influence voters” in the constituency. The poll panel said the countermanding of polls was related to search and seizure operations carried out at the homes of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Treasurer Durai Murugan and his son on March 29 and March 30.
“The search team observed that evidently there was prior rummaging of the premises and removal of material including the control panel of the CCTV as well as the hard disks of the computers,” the Election Commission said. “Further discreet surveillance resulted in the confirmation that a large amount of cash and other incriminating material had indeed been shifted out of the college premises while the teams were being denied entry.”
Searches were also held at the Vellore house of Durai Murugan’s son, Kathir Anand, from where officials seized around Rs 10.5 lakh unaccounted cash on March 29. Kathir Anand is the DMK candidate in Vellore. The Vellore district police had filed a complaint against Anand and two party functionaries on the basis of a report from the Income Tax department on April 10.
On April 1, a second Income Tax search was launched based on information that illegal cash was being moved from a college owned by the Durai Murugan family to a cement warehouse in Vellore. This search, conducted at the residence of Damodaran, the brother-in-law of DMK functionary Srinivasan, yielded a cash seizure of Rs 11.48 crore, the poll panel said. The cash had been packed in plastic packets with ward-wise details, it added.
“After taking into account all relevant facts and circumstances of the present case, the commission was fully satisfied that the current electoral process in Vellore Parliamentary constituency in Tamil Nadu has been seriously vitiated on account of the unlawful activities on behalf of the candidate, Kathir Anand, and some members/ workers of the political party in question,” the panel said.
In 2017, the Election Commission had countermanded elections to the RK Nagar Assembly seat in Tamil Nadu twice. In April 2016, the poll body had postponed elections in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur during the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, after cash amounting to crores was recovered from sites belonging to persons close to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
It is not clear whether bye-elections in two Assembly seats – Ambur and Gudiyattam – under the Vellore Lok Sabha seat will also be countermanded or will be held as planned on Thursday.