The Election Commission of India (ECI) has cancelled the elections in Vellore Parliamentary constituency in Tamil Nadu. Vellore becomes the first constituency in India where a Lok Sabha election has been cancelled because of cash for votes.
The ECI made the announcement on Tuesday based on a report submitted by the Income Tax department on the cash seized in Vellore. Two weeks ago, more than Rs 11 crore was seized from a cement godown, money which a local DMK functionary later disclosed belonged to him. The EC had written to the President, recommending a cancellation.
The President in turn had asked the Law Ministry for its opinion. On Tuesday evening, the President gave his assent to cancel the election in Vellore.
As per the ECI's final order, "The commission is fully satisfied that the current electoral process in 8-Vellore parliamentary constituency in Tamil Nadu has been seriously vitiated on account of unlawful activities of certain candidates and some members/workers of the political party and in the Commission's considered opinion, allowing the current electoral process to proceed and conducting the poll in the said constituency on 18th April 2019, as scheduled, in such a vitiated atmosphere would severely jeopardize the conduct of free and fair election in said constituency."
The officials of the Income Tax department conducted searches in the house of DMK Treasurer Duraimurugan in the wee hours of March 30 and then conducted searches in the cement godown on April 1. The search was conducted based on information given by the District Electoral Officer of Vellore. More than Rs 11 crore was seized by the officials on April 1. The cash was stacked in cartons, gunny sacks and shopping bags.
An FIR was registered against Duraimurugan’s son DM Kathir Anand on April 8 and two of his team members. Kathir is contesting in the Lok Sabha polls from Vellore on a DMK ticket. The FIR also included the names of Poonjolai Srinivasan, a local DMK functionary, and a man called Damodaran who owns the cement godown from where the cash was seized.
The FIR stated that Kathir Anand possessed more cash than what he had declared in his election affidavit. Adding that Poonjolai Srinivasan claimed that the money seized from the godown belonged to him, the FIR said, “Poonjolai Srinivasan then contacted the Income Tax authorities and accepted that the amount seized from Damodaran’s properties belonged to him and that it was kept there to distribute to voters.” It also said that the seized cash could have been moved to the godown from Duraimurugan’s house when the officers were made to wait outside his house on the night of the raid.
On April 9, 2017, just three days before the RK Nagar election was scheduled the Election Commission cancelled it over allegations of bribery by the ruling party. In 2016, the Election Commission cancelled polls to Thanjavur and Aravakurichi over the use of money during the Assembly Elections.