The alleged cash for votes scam that brought the RK Nagar bye-polls in Tamil Nadu to a screeching halt is back to haunt the ruling AIADMK(Amma) Government. The reply to an RTI petition from the Election Commission of India, shows that directions to file an FIR against the Chief Minister and other leaders accused of bribing voters, has been blatantly flouted.
An RTI filed by High Court Advocate MP Vairakannan, who resides in the RK Nagar constituency, shows that there has been a deliberate delay in the case, despite the Election Commission's intervention. In a letter dated April 18, the EC has written to the Chief Electoral Officer of Tamil Nadu and to the state's Chief Secretary. It has issued directives for the returning officer to file an FIR based on the search and seizure action by the Income Tax department. 'Documents indicating large scale distribution of money' to induce/bribe voters to influence the bye-election has been specifically mentioned in the letter.
It had further ordered for 'quick and appropriate' action.
The documents that the Election Commission is referring to include a comprehensive list that details how Rs 89 crore was divided amongst different leaders of the Edappadi Palaniswami faction, to distribute to voters. The names mentioned in the document were--CM Edappadi Palaniswami, Deputy General Secretary TTV Dhinakaran and five ministers.
'CM and Ministers must step down'
The opposition led by the DMK has now demanded that these leaders step down from their seats, in order to ensure a free and fair probe. When the EC's orders was raised in the Assembly, the Chief Minister merely stated that a 'thorough investigation' is underway.
"The Chief Minister was not able to provide us with a satisfactory reply. He claims that the matter is being probed but refused to divulge the details of the FIR or if it has even been filed," said MK Stalin, working President of the DMK. Following the 'unsatisfactory' reply, the Opposition staged a walkout from the Assembly. "The police are under the Chief Minister's control and he is the prime accused in this case. How will action be taken against the CM and the ministers if they don't step down?" he asks.
The AIADMK, however, continues to remain in denial. "There is no solid evidence that members of our party went out distributing money in RK Nagar," says CR Saraswathi, AIADMK spokesperson, dismissing the document unearthed by the I-T department. "Will a Chief Minister or even the candidate who is standing in the constituency go and give money to people? To make matters worse, the DMK is even showing the residents of RK Nagar in bad light. People will vote for whom they want to and not based on the money that they get," she adds. Saraswathi was however, unable to confirm if any steps to file an FIR against these leaders was undertaken.
The party has been facing multiple allegations of corruption right from horse-trading ahead of the trust vote in February. Recently, a sting operation by Moon TV saw Madurai(South) MLA Saravanan claiming both factions of the party were offering legislators crores of money for their votes. This along with the distribution of money ahead of the RK Nagar polls by the EPS faction, badly damage the ruling party's image, months after its chief J Jayalalithaa's demise.