This was perhaps the first time that the election to a Lok Sabha constituency was cancelled over use of money power.
Former Director General (investigation) of the income tax department, B Murli Kumar, was on Tuesday appointed as the special expenditure observer for the August 5 poll to Vellore Lok Sabha seat in Tamil Nadu, where the election was earlier countermanded over excess use of money power. His order of appointment was issued by the Election Commission. Kumar, a 1983-batch Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, had led the tax team that raided and searched the premises of different political party workers that resulted in seizure of Rs 11.53 crore in “black money” that was allegedly being pumped into elections to this seat.
The officer retired from the post of Director General (investigation) last month and, according to EC sources, he was found to be the “most suitable” to be appointed special observer for the forthcoming polls to the lone LS seat which is sensitive from the point of view of use of black money and other illegal inducements. “It will be my effort to implement the model code of conduct in true spirit. We will work to ensure that the polls are conducted in a free and fair manner,” Kumar, who has earlier worked in the Delhi investigation wing of the tax department and the home ministry, told PTI.
Under his command, the Chennai I-T probe wing had submitted a report of illegal money power being used in Vellore seat to the poll panel with a strong recommendation to cancel the election as “incriminating” amount of black money was being pumped into the constituency to “lure maximum number of the voters”. With the 2019 general elections, the EC had begun appointing special expenditure observers in sensitive constituencies. At least three other retired IRS (Income Tax) officers were appointed in this capacity. Polling for the Lok Sabha seat was scheduled for April 18, along with the other constituencies of Tamil Nadu, but was cancelled on April 16 following the recovery of a huge amount of cash allegedly from an associate of a DMK leader.
A government notification rescinding the polls had said the EC was fully satisfied that the current electoral process in Vellore has been seriously vitiated on account of unlawful activities of certain candidates and some workers of the political party. It had said that in the considered opinion of the EC, going ahead with the poll process in Vellore in such a vitiated atmosphere would severely jeopardise the conduct of a free-and-fair election. This was perhaps the first time that the election to a Lok Sabha constituency was cancelled over use of money power.
The bypoll to the RK Nagar Assembly seat in Tamil Nadu was cancelled in April, 2017, following a similar seizure of huge cash, allegedly meant for bribing voters. The counting of votes will be on August 9. Once the result is announced, Lok Sabha will have its full strength of 543 elected members. There is a provision to nominate two members from the Anglo-Indian community.