CHENNAI: Making an ‘anguished’ observation on what it termed as ‘systemic bribing’ of voters, the Election Commission cancelled the RK Nagar bypoll late on Sunday. The order, passed jointly by Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi and the two other election commissioners, largely relied on the recent alleged seizures of documents by Income Tax officials from the premises linked to a few State ministers.
“The above-mentioned search and seizure action by the Income-tax authorities has resulted in unraveling a huge and systematic design to distribute money to voters in order to induce/bribe them to influence their voting behaviour,” the order read, referring to document leaked after the raids.
The 29-page order elaborated on the various measures the commission took to prevent bribing of voters and the various newer modes of voter bribing it came across from prepaid phone recharge coupons to mobile wallet payments.
“Some of the States have particularly excelled in innovating more and more subtle ways to circumvent the statutory provisions enacted by Parliament to curb the menace of money power in elections. The top leaderships of the parties cannot feign ignorance about such illegal activities being indulged in by the candidates set by their parties, and also the managers appointed by their parties to oversee the election campaigns of their candidates. If not their express consent, their tacit approval to the resort to such undesirable activities on the part of their candidates and electoral managers cannot be wished away. It is high time that they exert their moral influence and legal authority to reign in their erring candidates and electoral managers without loss of time, if democracy is to flourish and deepen its roots in our country,” the order said.
Invoking the powers of the commission under Article 324 of the Constitution, the order said it is rescinding the bypoll.
“The bye-election to fill the above vacancy in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly from 11-Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly Constituency 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, as mentioned above, gets removed with the passage of time and the atmosphere in the constituency becomes conducive to the holding of free and fair election.”