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Rs 89 crore distributed among voters, raids ahead of RK Nagar bypolls

Another Rs 5.6 crore was seized from associates of Tamil Nadu health minister Vijaya Bhaskar, who termed the raids as politically motivated.

india Updated: Apr 09, 2017 09:55 IST
Aditya Iyer
Aditya Iyer
Hindustan Times, Chennai
R K Nagar,bypoll,Sasikala
People queueing up for drinking water is an everyday affair in RK Nagar, even as bypolls has seen a massive free flow of cash to lure voters.(HT FILE PHOTO)

Income tax department’s searches have found that Rs 89 crore was distributed among voters in RK Nagar, even as another Rs 5.6 crore was seized from two acquaintances of Tamil Nadu health minister Vijaya Bhaskar, a Sasikala loyalist.

The raids also took place at properties belonging to actor-turned-politician and Samuthuva Makkal Katchi (SMK) leader, Sarathkumar and Dr MGR Medical University vice-chancellor, S Geethalakshmi.

Vijaya Bhaskar had on Friday condemned the raids as being “politically motivated,” and dared the I-T officials to arrest him if they found “Rs 10,000,” in his residence.

According to I-T officials, several papers containing the signatures of those who received money were recovered from the minister’s house.

“We also recovered Rs 3.5 crore from Nainar Mohammed (a confidant of the minister) and Rs 1.1 crore from a Mr Kalpesh. Another crore was seized from a confidant of the minister. We are interrogating them on the source of these funds,” the official said.

Another official said that while the initial raid at Sarathkumar’s house did not result in seizure of cash, they had “evidence” suggesting that the SMK leader had received money from the minister.

Sarathkumar, who publicly declared his support for the Sasikala faction of the AIADMK, told reporters outside his house that the raids were clearly a political vendetta.

“These raids come after I publicly announced support to TTV Dhinakaran. I was supposed to take part in the campaign in RK Nagar today. But I was not allowed to leave by the I-T officials,” he said.

But beyond the picture of the ongoing raids into high profile supporters of the Sasikala faction and their candidate Dhinakaran is a more startling reality of rampant bribery in a state infamous for its sordid history of cash for votes.

It has also highlighted the almost gargantuan task that the election commission faces in the run up to the bye-elections, which have seen a huge concentration of parties and money freely flowing through the once sedate streets of the late Jayalalithaa’s constituency.

According to flying squad officials, the ingenuity of those distributing bribes means they are always one step ahead. “Some parties lure potential voters to Royapuram to give them cash,” a senior official said. “Our jurisdiction ends in RK Nagar so we cannot go after them.”

The EC has deputed no less than six observers, an unprecedented move when it comes to bypolls in Tamil Nadu.

First Published: Apr 08, 2017 13:11 IST