Assembly Elections: Tamil Nadu

Bucking the trend

Print edition : June 10, 2016

Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai greeting AIADMK general secretary and Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in Chennai on May 20. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

DMK president M. Karunanidhi. He has been elected from Tiruvarur constituency. Photo: M. PRABHU

Vijayakanth of the DMDK. He lost his security deposit in Ulundurpet. Photo: A. Muralitharan

Anbumani Ramadoss of the PMK. He was defeated in Pennagaram. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Jayalalithaa makes history by returning to power for a second consecutive time in Tamil Nadu.

“What do you think are the reasons for ‘Amma’s’ victory today?” this reporter asked V. Selvendran of Triplicane in Chennai, a nondescript man dressed in ill-fitting trousers and a soiled shirt, on May 19.

This question, asked out of curiosity about what the man on the street thinks, launched Selvendran into a political discourse. He looked around him for a few seconds and then glib sentences rolled off his tongue in a steady flow. “Today, Amma has proved herself to be an unshakeable power centre in Tamil Nadu politics. Whatever numerous alliances you might have formed against her, she, as a woman, took them on single-handedly and beat all of them. She is the avatar of Kali and she has vanquished all her opponents.”

As people gathered around him and cheered him, this All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supporter assumed an air of nonchalance. He said: “You want to know why Amma has won the elections. She has given cycles, laptops, uniforms, textbooks, notebooks and chappals [footwear] to children studying in government schools. She is giving them even ulaga varai padam [world atlas] free of cost. Every hut in Tamil Nadu has a laptop today. She set up Amma canteens where you can have an idli for one rupee and sambar rice for Rs.5. Even in Kolar [in Karnataka] where they mine gold, they will not give you even a milligram of gold free of cost. But Amma gave four grams of gold to poor women for making thali [a golden pendant worn by married women]. She has now promised to give eight grams of gold for making thali. All the poll surveys were wrong about her. She is Chief Minister again. All credit goes to her alone for this victory for it is her good schemes that fetched her votes.” Selvendran sauntered off with a casual air after saying this.

It was unfettered celebration time on the roads leading to Poes Garden in Chennai where Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and general secretary of the AIADMK, lives. As the Assembly election results, after initially giving the impression that it was a neck-and-neck race between the ruling AIADMK and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led front, stabilised to signal a clear victory for the AIADMK, music and dance filled the roads leading to her residence. The air resounded with firecrackers and drumbeats. By evening, when the counting was completed, it became clear that Jayalalithaa had made history by winning the election to become the Chief Minister for a second consecutive term, a feat achieved previously by M.G. Ramachandran, the founder of the AIADMK, in 1984. On May 20, the AIADMK’s newly elected legislators elected her their legislature party leader.

The Tamil Nadu Assembly has 234 seats, but elections were held on May 16 for only 232 seats as the Election Commission of India (ECI) postponed voting in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur constituencies first to May 23 and later to June 13, citing widespread distribution of cash to voters there.

Of the 232 constituencies, the AIADMK-led alliance won in 134 seats: the AIADMK in 131 and its three allies, who contested on the AIADMK’s “two leaves” symbol, won one each. Five AIADMK Ministers were defeated. They are the powerful Natham R. Viswanathan, who held the Electricity portfolio, in Natham constituency in Dindigul district; B. Valarmathi and Gokul Indira, who contested in Thousand Lights and Anna Nagar respectively in Chennai; R. Vaithilingam in Orathanad; and P. Mohan in Sankarapuram. The AIADMK could win only six of the 16 seats in Chennai district, which was ravaged by floods in November-December 2015, making it clear that the people were angry with the Jayalalithaa government for mishandling the flood situation. The DMK front made a strong bid to return to power but failed. The alliance won 98 seats. The DMK won 89 of the 174 seats it contested; the Congress eight of the 41 seats allotted to it; and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the DMK’s long-time ally, one. The DMK’s other allies, such as the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), the Puthiya Tamilagam and the Makkal Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, drew a blank. Although defeated, the DMK has found comfort in the fact that its strength in the Assembly has gone up from 23 in 2011 to 89. Tamil Nadu’s 15th Assembly will have the largest opposition group so far.

The DMK patriarch and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi won in Tiruvarur with the highest margin of 68,366 votes. This is the 13th consecutive time that he is elected to the Assembly and the second time in a row that he is elected from Tiruvarur. Karunanidhi belongs to Tirukkuvalai village near Tiruvarur. The constituency was seized with a strong urge to vote for the 93-year-old “son of the soil”. Karunanidhi polled 1,21,473 votes and his nearest opponent, R. Panneerselvam of the AIADMK, 53,107 votes. In 2011, Karunanidhi won by a margin of 50,249 votes.

It was a complex election involving the AIADMK-led front, the DMK-led alliance, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK)-People’s Welfare Front-Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) alliance, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led alliance, and the Naam Tamizhar Katchi, an ultra Tamil nationalist party led by film director Seeman. The PWF comprises the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) founded by Vaiko, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India (CPI), and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), a Dalit party led by Thol. Thirumavalavan.

All candidates of parties or groups other than the first two alliances were roundly defeated.

Although the AIADMK is set to form the government, it is not a victory that Jayalalithaa would fully rejoice at. In 2011, the AIADMK contested 160 seats and won 150. This time, it fielded its candidates in 227 constituencies and won in 131. Had the DMK forged a stronger alliance, the AIADMK would have been trounced. In fact, in many constituencies the DMK gave a tough fight to the AIADMK.

What must have galled Jayalalithaa is that she got re-elected with a lower margin this time than in 2015 from the working-class constituency of Radhakrishnan Nagar in Chennai. Her margin of victory in 2015 was 1,50,722 votes against her nearest CPI candidate C. Mahendran. This time Jayalalithaa polled 97,218 votes and her nearest rival, Shimla Muthuchozhan of the DMK, polled 57,673 votes.

Reacting to the results, Jayalalithaa said there were no words in the Tamil lexicon to express her gratitude to the people who gave this verdict and she promised to strive for the welfare of the people until her last breath. “I will continue to work on the basis of the taraka mantra that ‘I am because of the people and I am for the people’,” she said.

Money power

Opposition leaders such as M.K. Stalin, Vijayakanth, Dr S. Ramadoss, Vaiko and Thol. Thirumavalavan alleged that it was the money distributed by the AIADMK that was behind its victory. “In the battle between dharma and adharma, the tyranny of money power defeated democracy. But future will demonstrate the fact that it is truth that will triumph at all times,” said Vijayakanth, the DMDK founder, who was projected as the chief ministerial candidate of the DMDK-PWF-TMC alliance. Vaiko, the coordinator of this alliance, said the “corrupt, money power has won in the elections”. The AIADMK and the DMK “poured forth” crores of rupees and “bought” the votes, he alleged.

This was an election which the DMK should have won. If it squandered its chances, it has to blame itself for it (see story on page 19). First of all, the DMK failed to cobble up a strong alliance. However hard it tried, Vijayakanth refused to walk into its fold. Besides, the Congress was a drag on the DMK, with its weak candidates pitted against established AIADMK leaders. However, there is another argument, that the Congress’ votes helped the alliance in multi-cornered contests. Candidates such as N.R. Dhanapalan, P. Sivakami and Pon. Kumar, who were from the DMK’s minor allies, were no match against the AIADMK’s nominees. If the DMK had contested in about 200 seats, it would have come to power this time, a political analyst said. Another possibility is that had the DMK projected the hard-working Stalin, party treasurer and Karunanidhi’s son, as the chief ministerial candidate, the party would have romped home. Although Stalin began his campaign several months before the election schedule was announced with an imaginative programme of touring all the 234 constituencies and meeting the people directly, success eluded the DMK because he was not projected as the chief ministerial candidate. The alliance instead projected the nonagenarian Karunanidhi as its chief ministerial candidate.

The DMDK-PWF-TMC alliance contested all the 234 seats claiming to offer an “alternative politics” and a “credible and viable alternative” to both the DMK and the AIADMK. There were no takers for the alliance’s offer. Vijayakanth was defeated in Ulundurpet in Villupuram district. He came third, after the AIADMK’s R. Kumaraguru and the DMK’s G.R. Vasanthavel. Vijayakanth also lost his security deposit. CPI(M) leaders K. Balakrishnan, A. Soundararajan, A. Lasar, K. Bhim Rao and U. Vasuki were also defeated. The popular sitting CPI legislator, P.L. Sundaram, was defeated by the AIADMK in Bhavani Sagar (reserved) constituency in Erode district.

Thirumavalavan, a fighter for Dalits’ rights and an orator, who first mooted the idea of forming a coalition government in the State, lost in Kattumannarkoil in Cuddalore district by a mere 87 votes to his AIADMK opponent, N. Murugumaran. Writer and ideologue D. Ravikumar of the VCK lost in Vaanur in Cuddalore district.

The PMK, which contested alone in 233 constituencies, did not win a single seat either. It projected Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, son of Ramadoss, as its chief ministerial candidate. But the nattily dressed and suave Anbumani was defeated in Pennagaram constituency in Dharmapuri district despite the fact that he was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014 from Dharmapuri. Top PMK leaders such as G.K. Mani and Kaduvetti J. Guru were defeated in Mettur and Jayamkondam constituencies respectively. Every PMK candidate in the Vanniyar heartland of Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Cuddalore, Villupuram, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Salem and Dharmapuri districts was defeated, but many of them secured a substantial number of votes.

The BJP, which was in the ring in 156 constituencies, drew a blank. Its State president, Tamizhisai Soundararajan, lost her security deposit in Virugambakkam in Chennai. The Naam Tamizhar Katchi, a fringe group professing virulent Tamil nationalism, too, was routed in all the 232 constituencies. Seeman lost his security deposit in Cuddalore.

Factors that worked

There were several factors working in favour of Jayalalithaa’s return to power. Among them, the following stand out: the majority of women voters across the State voted for the party (women voters outnumbered men in 163 constituencies); there was no visible anti-incumbency sentiment against the party; the government initiated schemes targeting women’s welfare, especially in rural areas; and the welfare schemes that Jayalalithaa promised in the election manifesto. Another important factor is that the AIADMK contested in 227 seats and the anti-AIADMK votes got scattered because of a six-cornered contest. That is, the anti-AIADMK votes did not accrue to the DMK-led alliance alone. It got split among the DMDK-PWF-TMC alliance, the PMK and the BJP. In particular, the PMK spoiled the DMK’s chances in many seats where the winning margin of the AIADMK candidates was very low. From the number of votes polled separately by DMK and PMK candidates, it becomes clear that had the two parties come together, the AIADMK would have been defeated in at least 30 constituencies.

The absence of the DMDK, the CPI(M), the CPI and the Puthiya Tamilagam, who were with her in the 2011 Assembly election, was countervailed by the AIADMK contesting more seats now. Since she was sure of her party’s vote bank, Jayalalithaa also said no to aspiring allies such as the TMC and the Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi (which split from the PMK) headed by T. Velmurugan. Even the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), a trusted ally, was shown the door.

The visible factor was that there was no manifest anger against the AIADMK save the one relating to the Chennai floods. The opulent wedding of her foster son, V.N. Sudhakaran, corruption, the audacious property-buying spree and the violence unleashed against individuals during her first term in office from 1991 to 1996 ensured Jayalalithaa’s defeat in 1996. She was not returned to power in 2006 because of the shabby treatment of government employees, schoolteachers and State Electricity Board employees, the anti-conversion law, and the law banning animal sacrifices, among others, during her second term (2001-06). But her tenure from 2011-16 was bereft of such controversial actions. A party leader said: “Jayalalithaa used to spoil for a fight earlier. She merely kept quiet now. She let things lie for five years from 2011.” Her re-election has broken a trend that had set in from 1989 wherein the ruling party was never voted back to power. Thus, the DMK and the AIADMK alternated in power in 1989, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011. Another factor that stood the AIADMK in good stead was the strength of its primary membership. Although the party high command claims that it has more than one crore primary members, they may total at least 75 lakhs, and these members have voted unfailingly for the party in election after election.

Above all, an important factor that helped the AIADMK return to power is the unstinted support it received from women voters across the State. There are 5.82 crore voters in the State, comprising 2,93,33, 927 women and 2,88,62,973 men. In constituency after constituency that this reporter visited in 18 districts, women, belonging to the poorer sections of society, overwhelmingly expressed their support to the AIADMK on the strength of the welfare schemes it has implemented. T. Sundarakrishnan, an AIADMK worker from Kalakkad in Tirunelveli district, said: “Her welfare schemes reached the marginalised people in villages. There was no dissatisfaction in rural areas. There was peace as well.”

Among the welfare schemes implemented since 2011, the ones that became popular among women are four grams of gold to women belonging to the poorer sections of society; maternity grant of Rs.12,000 to pregnant women; baby care kits containing a towel, dress, baby shampoo, a rattle, insect protection net, etc, to women after they are delivered of a child; and free distribution of mixies, grinders and fans. Furthermore, poor families received four goats and a cow free of cost. Another scheme that was a great hit with the economically weaker sections was the opening of budget restaurants called Amma Unavagam, or Amma canteens.

Men voters this correspondent met across the State in Pasur, Bhavani Sagar, Uttaramerur, Cheyyur, Viralimalai, Tiruthuraipoondi and other constituencies appreciated the Jayalalithaa government for providing their children studying in government schools free uniforms, notebooks, textbooks, geometry boxes, laptops and chappals, lifting a heavy financial load off them for 12 years of their wards’ schooling.

The AIADMK’s 2016 manifesto has promised more such freebies. The party has promised eight grams of gold to women who get married, a mobile phone to every household with ration cards, free supply of 100 units of electricity to every house (this means that 78 lakh households, which consume only up to 100 units need not pay power tariff), 50 per cent subsidy to women buying mopeds/scooters to enable them to drive to their workplace, free Internet connections to higher secondary students who receive free laptops, and so on ( Frontline, May 27).

It was no surprise then that the AIADMK did spectacularly well in its pocket boroughs in the entire western region called “Kongu mandalam”, which includes Coimbatore, Tiruppur, the Nilgiris, Salem, Erode, Namakkal, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts. In election after election, the AIADMK has remained unassailable in the western region. Out of the 57 seats in these districts, the AIADMK triumphed in 45, and the DMK in 10. The Congress won two seats. In 2011, the AIADMK won 36 seats, and its allies, the DMDK 10, the CPI five and the CPI(M) two. The DMK won three seats and the Congress one. It is the AIADMK’s performance in the western region that has returned it to power. The AIADMK won most of the seats in the Madurai region, which includes Madurai, Virudhunagar, Theni, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts.

What reduced the AIADMK’s 2011 tally was the people’s anger against the government for its mismanagement of the flood situation in Chennai, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Cuddalore, Villupuram and Tuticorin districts in 2015. Relentless downpour and breached waterbodies flooded Chennai district in November and December. Instead of releasing water from the Chembarambakkam reservoir in a phased, calibrated manner, the government released water in one go on November 16 and December 2.

The suburbs and many localities along the rivers flowing through the city were badly affected ( Frontline, December 11 and 25, 2015, and January 8, 2016). Jayalalithaa did not deign to visit any of the flood-affected districts. She only visited Radhakrishnan Nagar in northern Chennai. There too, from the comfort of her vehicle, she addressed the people as “My dear voters” when the elections were several months away. The AIADMK rubbed salt into the wound when its councillors and cadres snatched relief material brought from other States by non-governmental organisations for distribution among the flood-affected and systematically stuck stickers with Jayalalithaa’s image on them.

It was no surprise, therefore, that the DMK won 10 seats in Chennai.

“We lost 10 seats in Chennai because the AIADMK councillors of Chennai Municipal Corporation did not care to visit the flood-ravaged areas. They were never on the scene to help the people affected by the floods,” said an AIADMK cadre. J. Pushparani admitted, “It was infighting during the floods that made us lose 10 seats.”

In fact, of the 37 seats in the flood-affected districts of Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, the DMK and its allies won 21 and the AIADMK 16. In 2011, the AIADMK and its allies had won 35 seats and the DMK two. In Villupuram, which was also affected by rains and flooding, the DMK won in nine of the 11 constituencies.

Surprisingly, the results in Cuddalore, which was ravaged by rains and floods, was a mixed bag, with the DMK winning only four of the nine constituencies. In Cuddalore constituency, Minister for Commercial Taxes M.C. Sampath won against all predictions.

Factors favouring the DMK

What are the factors that boosted the DMK’s individual strength in the Assembly from 23 in 2011 to 89? Prohibition was a central issue in the elections and Karunanidhi announced that if the DMK was voted to power, his first action would be the reintroduction of prohibition. His announcement carried credibility, especially with women affected by liquor addicts in their families. On the other hand, Jayalalithaa’s assurance that she would bring back prohibition in stages did not cut much ice with the electorate.

More than the promise to bring back prohibition in one stroke, what boosted the DMK’s stock was its electoral promise to waive crop loans of small and marginal farmers. During his campaign, Karunanidhi assured the people that crop loans of not just small and marginal farmers but all farmers would be waived. College students, who form part of the 1.17 crore voters in the 20-29 age group, were enamoured of the DMK’s assurance that it would repay the students’ education loans. Students and youth believed that a DMK government would generate employment opportunities. They were upset that the Jayalalithaa government did nothing to stop the closure of the Nokia and Foxconn plants near Chennai. Besides, there was flight of industries from the Coimbatore region to Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat when prolonged power cuts plagued the State during the first four years of AIADMK rule.

Karunanidhi excoriated the Jayalalithaa government for its non-performance. “During the Jayalalithaa regime from 2011 to 2016, there were 9,948 murders and one lakh robberies and thefts. Every day, seven murders and 70 robberies take place in Tamil Nadu. The situation is so bad that not a day passes without murders and robberies taking place,” Karunanidhi said in a statement on April 9.

Stalin ridiculed the Jayalalithaa government’s non-performance in a variety of sectors. For his part, E.V.K.S. Elangovan, president of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, highlighted the corruption in the education and agriculture sectors and the non-performance of the Highways Department.

Vijayakanth’s undoing

What is puzzling is the failure of the DMDK, the MDMK, the CPI(M), the CPI, the VCK and the TMC to win even a single seat. Informed sources said the voters, who respected these parties’ leaders, could not digest the projection of Vijayakanth as the alliance’s chief ministerial candidate. “The youth and first-time voters looked upon the CPI(M) and the CPI leaders and Vaiko as extraordinary politicians, who would not compromise on integrity in public life. But once these leaders surrendered to Vijayakanth, they became ordinary politicians in people’s eyes,” a political analyst said.

Besides, Vijayakanth did not come across as a strong leader who could lead a State. He gave the impression of an enfeebled man who could not stop the AIADMK and the DMK from raiding his turf and poaching his legislators. Although much of what Vijayakanth spoke made sense, voters were aghast that he spat at reporters, raised his hand to beat them and often belaboured his own cadres. For his part, Vaiko, the alliance’s coordinator, often got tense and emotional. The television channels went to town with the footage of his getting overly jubilant on Vijayakanth joining the PWF and his (Vaiko’s) remarks, pregnant with casteist tones, against Karunanidhi. The credibility of the DMDK-PWF-TMC alliance suffered a dent when Vaiko opted out of the contest in Kovilpatti claiming that the DMK was planning to create inter-caste riots in the constituency and blame him for it. DMK, AIADMK and BJP leaders ridiculed Vaiko’s decision as one that was born out of his fear that he would be defeated. In the event, the AIADMK legislator, Kadambur S. Raju, retained the seat. Vaiko’s decision took away the steam, to some extent, from the momentum that the alliance had gathered from its largely attended rally at Mamandur on April 10.

Most importantly, the voters were not mentally prepared to accept the six-party alliance as “a credible and viable alternative” to the DMK and the AIADMK. In village after village, voters told this reporter that the candidates of the DMDK-PWF-TMC alliance were people with a clean record in public life and were service-minded but they had no chance of winning because they did not align either with the DMK or the AIADMK. For instance, Mayakkalai Chandran of Melur near Madurai had no illusions that the alternative front had any chance. Several voters in Bhavani Sagar were happy with the excellent performance of Sundaram whom they had elected in 2011 but made it clear that he had no chance now because the CPI had aligned with the PWF and not with the DMK or the AIADMK. A political observer said: “For the past 50 years, people of Tamil Nadu are habituated to voting for either the AIADMK or the DMK. Without the support of these two majors, no other party can function. If they go alone, they cannot win. This is what the 2016 election results confirm.”

The six parties could not match the intimidating money power of the AIADMK and the DMK. They had no wherewithal to publish full-page advertisements in Tamil and English newspapers seeking votes. The media also gave short shrift to these parties. The alliance’s rallies in Madurai, Mamandur and Tiruchi, with big turnouts, did not get much attention in the press. An English newspaper hardly covered the TMC.

G. Ramakrishnan, State secretary of the CPI(M), said in a statement on May 20: “The DMDK-PWF-TMC alliance appealed to the people to reject the bipolar politics of the DMK and the AIADMK that has been extant in Tamil Nadu for the past 50 years and support the alliance which was for an alternative politics. But the election results are not supportive of an alternative front....” He added: “Corruption and money power have won. The DMK and the AIADMK distributed money to voters instead of envisioning policies for democratic politics and providing solutions to people’s problems. Elections at Aravakurichi and Thanjavur were postponed because of the seizure of cash there.... The situation is that the PWF could not combat the money power and the distribution of cash by both the DMK and the AIADMK, and win people’s support.”

TMC chief G.K. Vasan said the DMDK-PWF alliance stood for an alternative politics, a coalition government, a corruption-free administration and a liquor-free society. “The alliance appealed to the people to change their mindset and support its policies.... But people were not prepared to change their mindset. I hope they will change their standpoint when they realise the truth [of what we say],” he said.

The Muslim factor

Although conventional wisdom is that the majority of Muslims generally vote for the DMK, it does not appear so. The DMK allotted five seats to the IUML and four to the MMK, a party backed by Muslims. K.A.M. Muhammed Abubacker of the IUML won the Kadayanallur seat defeating the AIADMK’s Sheik Dawood. The MMK drew a blank. Its leader, M.H. Jawahirullah, could not even retain his Ramanathapuram seat. Jawahirullah lost to M. Manikandan of the AIADMK. On the other hand, M. Thamimun Ansari, who split from the MMK and formed the Manithaneya Jananayaga Katchi (MJK) and joined hands with the AIADMK, was elected from Nagapattinam. He defeated A. Mohamed Jafarullah of the MMK. However, in Vellore the MJK candidate lost to a DMK candidate. Again, V. Alexander of the AIADMK defeated Aassan Maulana of the Congress in Ambattur.

The AIADMK candidate K. Pandia Rajan defeated the DMK’s S.M. Nasar in Avadi. Nilofer Kabir of the AIADMK defeated the IUML’s Syed Farooq in Vaniyambadi. So it is anybody’s guess whether a substantial number of Muslims voted for the DMK or its allies. It looks as if many Muslims could have backed the AIADMK. The DMK did not allot any seat to the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), another party backed by Muslims.

This is the first time since 1952 that Left party candidates have not been elected to the Tamil Nadu Assembly. The role of money power, as alleged by PWF leaders, became evident two days before polling on May 16.

Voting deferred

The ECI took the unprecedented step of deferring the elections to Aravakurichi and Thanjavur after it received definite information that the AIADMK and DMK candidates were distributing cash to voters at Aravakurichi, and that a candidate for Thanjavur had distributed cash to voters. At Aravakurichi, two heavyweights, K.C. Palanisamy of the DMK and V. Senthil Balaji of the AIADMK, had locked horns.

An ECI press release on May 15 said that Income Tax Department officials seized Rs.4.7 crore and some documents from the Aravakurichi residence of Anbunathan, who was close to AIADMK Ministers, on April 22. A “number of notings showing proximity to some prominent Ministers of the Tamil Nadu government and belonging” to the AIADMK came to light, it said. The officials searched the residences of Palanisamy and his son K.C.P. Sivaraman in Chennai and Karur and seized Rs.1.98 crore. The ECI analysed the situation and “the irresistible conclusion is that all the above monies and gift items were meant for distribution to electors as illegal inducements to them”, the press release said.

In Thanjavur constituency, the ECI said there were indications that more than Rs.6 crore was distributed by a single candidate. When officials searched a parked car on May 14, they found pamphlets of the AIADMK in it, which were not printed with permission.

Handwritten notes found in the car gave “details of ward-wise distribution of money at the rate of Rs.500 per vote” and “the total of distributed money comes to Rs.1.4 crore”, the ECI order, deferring the poll in Thanjavur, said.

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