EC cancels RK Nagar bypoll in Chennai after I-T raids uncover bribery evidence

A series of high profile raids in the past week allegedly uncovered cash-for-vote schemes meant to help swing favour during the RK Nagar bypolls scheduled for April 12. The constituency seat was held by the late former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa, and is key to the splintered factions of the ruling AIADMK party.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2017 07:28 IST
Aditya Iyer
Aditya Iyer
Hindustan Times, Chennai
RK Nagar Bypolls,Bypolls,Chennai
AIADMK leader and former Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam presents the party symbol (electric pole) to the RK Nagar bypoll candidate E Madhusudhanan in Chennai on March 26, 2017. (PTI Photo)

The Election Commission cancelled the RK Nagar by-elections scheduled for April 12 after evidence of rampant corruption and bribery came to light following a series of high profile raids by the Income Tax Department, sources said on Sunday.

The Commission’s decision will mean that the hotly contested elections to former chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s constituency, which was heading for a fierce fight between the splinter factions of the AIADMK and the DMK, will now take place at a later unspecified date.

The Election Commission (EC)’s decision came after tax authorities reportedly unearthed a large-scale bribery scandal to swing an election that might determine the ruling party’s future.

Documents seized by the income tax department during raids on state health minister Vijaya Bhaskar’s house on Friday purportedly show the Sasikala faction of the AIADMK gave Rs 4,000 to every voter in the north Chennai locality that was the home constituency of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa.

The papers leaked to the media purportedly show the Sasikala-led AIADMK faction giving more than Rs 89.5 crore to seven ministers for distribution among RK Nagar voters and that they were allegedly given a target of 224,145 voters to bribe.

Further documentation also reportedly point to rampant corruption and the transfer and posting processes of the state, as well as illegal tie-ups with private education institutions.

This is not the first time that bribery has led to elections being postponed. During the 2016 assembly elections, the poll panel cancelled elections in Thanjavur and Aravakuruchi assembly seats, citing large-scale bribing of voters.

The bypoll was being seen as a battle of supremacy between the two warring AIADMK factions that want to establish their control over the party, and crucially, lay claim to the iconic but now frozen two-leaves symbol of the party.

First Published: Apr 09, 2017 23:07 IST