EC may cancel RK Nagar bypolls over Rs 89-crore bribery scandal in Chennai
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.india Updated: Apr 09, 2017 13:06 IST
The Election Commission called a special meeting on Sunday to discuss scrapping a high-profile assembly bypoll in Chennai’s RK Nagar after tax authorities allegedly unearthed a large-scale bribery scandal to swing an election that might determine the ruling party’s future. A decision is expected latest by Monday.
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.
The documents triggered immediate calls for cancellation of the April 12 polls by the rival O Panneerselvam faction of the AIADMK, a claim opposed by Sasikala loyalist and chief minister K Palaniswamy.
The DMK’s working president, MK Stalin, has a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against the list of ministers mentioned in the documents. “The ministers should be debarred from contesting in elections,” Stalin said.
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 is 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. Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dinakaran is her faction’s candidate.
Others in the fray include former senior E Madhusudhanan of the OPS faction, BJP’s Gangai Amaran, and Deepa Jayakumar, Jayalalithaa’s niece who is contesting as an independent. In all, 62 candidates are in the fray.
A victory for Dinakaran would cement his and his aunt’s hold over the ruling party and potentially deal a body blow to OPS. A loss could encourage many within the party to raise their voice against the duo and result in mass desertions.