With the Income Tax Department saying around Rs 100 crore has been distributed to R.K. Nagar voters by the AIADMK faction led by the now jailed V.K. Sasikala, there is a possibility of the Election Commission (EC) postponing the by-election in the constituency.
According to the documents seized by the I-T officials during their raids in Chennai on Friday and published by some media houses, the price of one vote in the by-poll bound R.K. Nagar constituency is Rs 4,000.
"The documents published by some media houses and doing the rounds in WhatsApp are what we had seized during our raids yesterday (Friday)," an I-T official confirmed to IANS on Saturday.
"We have submitted our report to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). In our report, we have stated about the seizure of documents, distribution of cash to the R.K. Nagar voters, the bribe received by the officials from drug suppliers and some other things," the senior official said.
Asked whether the I-T Department would go behind the ministers mentioned in the document seized by his officials, he said: "How can I tell in advance against whom the department would act?"
As per the documents leaked to the media, the Sasikala-led AIADMK faction had given over Rs 89.5 crore to seven ministers for distribution among R.K.Nagar voters and they were given a target to distribute cash to 85 per cent of the voters, numbering 2,24,145.
Other documents accessed by The News Minute indicate rampant corruption in transfer and posting by government, and other ‘tie ups’ with private colleges.
Reacting to the media reports, DMK's working President M.K. Stalin in a statement demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against the list of ministers mentioned in the documents seized by the I-T Department and published in the media. "The ministers should be debarred from contesting in elections," Stalin said.
On Friday, I-T officials raided the residences and business premises of Tamil Nadu Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar, his relatives as well as persons close to him and his business associates.
"We have seized cash totalling Rs 5.5 crore. We have also seized documents showing Rs 89 crore changed hands in R.K. Nagar," an I-T official had told IANS.
In the 2016 assembly elections, the Election Commission had postponed the polls in Thanjavur and Aravakuruchi assembly seats citing large-scale bribing of voters.
"If one wants to bring about proper electoral reforms, then EC should permanently ban a candidate and even the political party from contesting elections if they are found involved in electoral malpractices like bribing the voters," said former parliamentarian K.C. Palaniswamy, the spokesperson of the AIADMK faction led by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam.
Palanisamy, however, said the poll panel should not postpone the April 12 by-election.
Asked about the possibility of debarring a party or a candidate from contesting elections, T.S. Krishnamurthy, former Chief Election Commissioner, told IANS: "The EC has no such power. All that the EC can do is to postpone the election."
According to Krishnamurthy, the poll body can postpone the elections any number of times.