A whopping Rs 127 crore was seized in cash in Tamil Nadu announced officials of the Election Commission of India, who briefed the media after they conducted a review in the state. Tamil Nadu, which will vote for its Members of Parliament on April 18, will also witness bye-polls to 18 Assembly seats on the same day.
A team led by Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa arrived in Chennai on Tuesday to take stock of the preparations in the state. A number of electoral issues were witnessed in the state in recent weeks -- from cash distribution by parties to allegations of bias against the Election Commission.
Tamil Nadu continues to top the list of states with cash seizures. Ashok Lavasa clarified that a comprehensive report has been immediately asked for after every instance of cash seizure, but the EC was not the prosecuting authority.
â€śThe EC has been given feedback on the abuse of money power. We have asked officers to intensify effective and visible measures,â€ť the EC added. While there will be two observers per Lok Sabha constituency, there will be one all-woman polling booth per constituency.
On Tuesday, copies of a book on the Rafale deal were seized by a flying squad of the EC in Chennai, citing violation of the Model Code of Conduct. Tamil Nadu's Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo clarified that he had not ordered the confiscation of the books.
Speaking to the media, Ashok said, â€śIt was brought to our knowledge through the media. We learnt about it through electronic media and found out all the details. We were informed that neither the CEO nor anybody from the EC had authorised this kind of action from the flying squad. The concerned flying squad has been changed. All officials involved in that action have been removed.â€ť
The DMK, the main opposition party in the state, had petitioned the EC to conduct bye-polls to four pending constituencies in the state -- Aravakurichi, Thiruparankundram, Ottapidaram and Sulur. Ashok said that the matter was under consideration by the EC.
Demands of political parties
The EC said that it had met with all political parties, deputy commissioners, collectors, commissioners of police, superintendents of police of all districts and other senior officials. The team carried out a review with all enforcement agencies belonging to both the central and state governments, including the IT Department, Central Excise, Narcotics Control Bureau, RBI, Excise and Taxation Department, Railway Zonal Manager, Director of AAI etc.
In an apparent reference to RK Nagar MLA TTV Dhinakaran, the Election Commissioner said, â€śOne political party raised the issue about similarity of their election symbol with other parties. They also requested that the transfer policy issued by the EC be implemented and no officer should be allowed to continue in his or her place of posting which is not covered by the transfer policy. Some letters regarding a government scheme which have been issued to beneficiaries during the MCC.â€ť
Dhinakaran, whose party was recently assigned the gift pack election symbol, had previously sought the pressure cooker symbol. It was recently found that in at least four Assembly constituencies, Dhinakaranâ€™s previous pressure cooker symbol had been allotted to independents with the same name as AMMK candidates.