Chennai: Following allegations of cash for votes, the Election Commission of India (EC) on Sunday night cancelled the by-election for the R.K. Nagar constituency that was slated for 12 April.
In a 29-page order, the commission said that the election to elect a member from the R.K. Nagar constituency to “the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly shall stand rescinded forthwith".
“Consequently, all actions and steps taken by the Returning Officer of the said 11-Dr.Radhakrishnan Nagar (R.K. Nagar) Assembly Constituency, District Election Officer, Chennai District and all other electoral authorities concerned are hereby declared as null and void," the EC order stated.
The EC also added that the by-election to fill the vacancy this constituency in Chennai, shall be held by the Commission in due course, “when the vitiating effect created by the distribution of money and gift items to allure the electors, gets removed with the passage of time and the atmosphere in the constituency becomes conducive to the holding of free and fair election".
This comes after the income tax department conducted searches at over 30 locations across the state in the properties owned by health minister C. Vijayabaskar, on Friday. The searches allegedly revealed,in the leaked documents, that Rs89 crore was routed for distribution to voters in R.K. Nagar.
Income tax raids were also conducted at the properties of actor turned politician R. Sarathkumar and MGR medical university vice chancellor S. Geethalakshmi.
The bypoll to R.K. Nagar constituency was necessitated following the death of former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa on 5 December.
The EC in its order also mentioned “the innovative ways which the political parties and their leaders at the top echelons have devised to bypass the law enforcing authorities entrusted with the task of keeping an eye on the unauthorized and illegal expenses incurred in the conduct of election campaigns of their party candidates need to be dealt with heavy hand".
Following the split in the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and with stakes running high ahead of the poll, the EC had received complaints of widespread distribution of cash and gifts.
After the complaints, the EC transferred 22 police officials, including Chennai police commissioner S. George and 18 other officers of the revenue department. Further, one assistant commissioner, two executive engineers, four assistant executive engineers and four assistant engineers were transferred.
The EC had deployed 256 micro observers, an additional 30 officers and five observers—highest ever for a constituency.
Cancelling elections due to complaints of cash-for-vote is not something new to Tamil Nadu. The state witnessed a similar situation in May last year, during the assembly election, when the EC after postponing elections in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur assembly constituencies on two occasions, cancelled it based on reports of large-scale distribution of money and gifts, for the first time in the electoral history of India.