Acting on the Election Commission’s recommendation, President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday cancelled polls in the Vellore parliamentary constituency. In the wake of cash seizures from DMK leaders over the last two weeks, the poll panel on Monday had recommended cancellation of polls citing the suspected use of money power to influence voters.
Vellore was scheduled to go to polls with the rest of Tamil Nadu on April 18 and is the first Lok Sabha seat to have had its elections countermanded over abuse of money power.
The EC, in 2017, had countermanded elections to the Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly seat in Tamil Nadu twice. In April 2016, during the TN Assembly elections, the EC postponed polls in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur, after cash running into crores was recovered from sites belonging to persons close to the AIADMK. In 2012, elections to two Rajya Sabha seats in Jharkhand were scrapped for the same reason. The EC’s recommendation to the President was sent in the wake of cash seizures from the premises of DMK veteran leader and party treasurer Duraimurugan’s son Kathir Anand’s house in Vellore on March 29. Subsequently, on April 1, based on information that illegal cash was being moved from a college owned by the Duraimurugan family to a cement warehouse in Vellore, a second I-T search was launched and `11.53 crore was seized.
While searches at Anand’s residence, who is the DMK’s candidate in Vellore Lok Sabha constituency, yielded seizures of around `19 lakh, official scrutiny later found that only `10.50 lakh was the excess or the unaccounted cash.
In connection with the I-T seizures, on April 10, Tamil Nadu police filed an FIR against Anand and two others, Poonjolai Srinivasan, the owner of the cement warehouse and Damodaran, for their alleged links to DMK and the Duraimurugan family. The seizures from Duraimurugan’s residence also includes printouts with ward numbers written over them, which were allegedly documents to be used in the cash distribution.
The EC is learnt to have received a report from the Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer and also the special expenditure observer deputed to the state last week. It is based on their inputs that the EC concluded money power was being used to influence voters in the parliamentary seat. Armed with a sizeable number of minority votes, a strong presence of Indian Union Muslim League, and a strong anti-incumbency wave expected in this election, the DMK leadership considered Vellore in northern TN a promising seat in its battle against the AIADMK-NDA alliance candidate AC Shanmugam.
So far, the total seizures of unaccounted cash, drugs, liquor, precious metal and freebies, purportedly meant to influence voters, stands at Rs 2,550 crore, of which the highest — Rs 499 crore — is from Tamil Nadu. In the 2014 elections, the EC had confiscated cash, liquor, precious metal and freebies to the tune of Rs 1,200 crore.