The election commission (EC) late on Sunday night cancelled the bypoll to Tamil Nadu’s RK Nagar assembly constituency that fell vacant after the death of chief minister J Jayalalithaa on December 5. The panel cited bribing of voters and flouting of election laws by contesting parties for putting off the election. The new date would be announced in due course, the panel said.
Here are the reasons why the election, which may determine the ruling AIADMK’s future, has been put off:
* This is the second time that the EC has cancelled assembly polls in the southern state on grounds of bribing voters. Last year, the commission countermanded election in Thanjavur and Aravakurichi, which were to vote on May 16, after huge sums of money were seized by poll officials. The polling was held on November 19.
* The RK Nagar by-election was cancelled after the income-tax department reports indicated that Rs 89 crore were distributed among the voters of the constituency, twice represented by Jayalalithaa.
* Documents seized by the income tax department during raids on state health minister Vijaya Bhaskar’s house on Friday showed the Sasikala faction of the AIADMK gave Rs 4,000 to every voter in the north Chennai locality.
* Another Rs 5 crore was seized from associates of Bhaskar.
* The EC had received complaints that large sums of money were being distributed to swing the outcome in an election, which has turned into a battle for Jayalalithaa’s legacy between VK Sasikala and O Panneerselvam. Sasikala, serving time in a corruption case, was a long-time aide of the late CM while Panneerselvam was a Jayalalithaa loyalist who rose in rebellion against Sasikala.
*The poll panel can use Article 324 of the Constitution to cancel an election on grounds of bribery.
*In a strongly worded statement, the EC said: “… the commission cannot help expressing its anguish over the sordid state of affairs as revealed in the reports of the election expenditure observers, election expenditure monitoring teams, as well as the reports of the income-tax authorities.”
The innovative ways which the political parties and their leaders… have devised to bypass the law-enforcing authorities entrusted with the task of keeping an eye on the unauthorised and illegal expenses incurred in the conduct of election campaigns of their party candidates need to be dealt with heavy hand.”
* The poll panel, responsible for the Lok Sabha and state assembly elections, for long has been calling for clean-up. Its proposal to make electoral bribery a cognisable offence is being looked at by the government since 2011.
* Recently, the law ministry drew up a proposal to make bribing voters a cognisable offence that will allow for arrests and a police probe.
*A draft of the proposal is being circulated among stakeholders for their opinion.
*Bribing voters is a non-cognisable offence, punishable by a by fine or up to a year in jail or both.