The Election Commission on Sunday cancelled the RK Nagar bypoll scheduled for April 12, after Income Tax raids uncovered evidence of massive corruption and bribery.
RK Nagar, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's constituency, was set for a battle between the splinter factions of the AIADMK and the DMK. But, due to the Election Commission's latest decision, the election will now be held at a later date.
Last week the Income Tax Department raided houses of several leaders from Sasikala's faction of the AIADMK. Officials found that a staggering Rs 89 crore had been distributed among voters in RK Nagar. An additional Rs 5.6 crore was seized from two acquaintances of Sasikala-loyalist and Tamil Nadu health minister Vijaya Bhaskar.
These seizures proved a large-scale bribery scandal was in progress to swing the election.
Raids on Vijaya Bhaskar's house showed that the Sasikala faction had given Rs 4,000 to every voter in RK Nagar to swing their vote. IT department said "papers" with signatures of those who received money were found at the health minister's house. Bhaskar later condemned the raids and called them "politically motivated."
Towards the end of March, DMK had complained to the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission that Dinakaran-led AIADMK faction had allegedly distributed money. That had included video evidence to support their claim.
Documents show that seven ministers were given a target of total 224,145 voters and a budget of more than Rs 89 crore, for the bribes. Raids were also carried out at properties of actor-turned-politician Sarathkumar and Dr MGR Medical University vice-chancellor S Geethalakshmi.
In the raids conducted at Sarathkumar's house, IT sleuths did not recover any cash, but they claim to have recovered evidence that the Samuthuva Makkal Katchi (SMK) leader had received money from Vijaya Baskar.
Sarathkumar had only recently announced support for Sasikala-faction backed Dinakaran. If these findings by the IT department hold true, they would mean Sarathkumar received money for his endorsement. Sarathkumar too has called the raids "politically motivated."
Some officials also revealed how the politicians find a way to manipulate the law. "Some parties lure potential voters to Royapuram to give them cash. Our jurisdiction ends in RK Nagar so we cannot go after them," a senior flying squad official told the Hindustan Times.
The Election Commission has rapped both the AIADMK factions several times for bad practices in the run down to the election. Early this month, it pulled up the O Panneerselvam faction for misrepresenting election symbols.
Seeing the history of corruption in elections in Tamil Nadu, the EC had also put in place an unprecedented six observers to oversee the election process.