R.K. Nagar shadow over four byelections in Tamil Nadu

Published : April 20, 2019 15:28 IST

As Tamil Nadu prepares for byelections to four constituencies on May 19, there are serious questions over how free and fair they will be since the Election Commission has not placed any restriction on the four senior politicians who were named in order to rescind the April 2017 R.K. Nagar byelection.

The four are: T.T.V. Dhinakaran, now general secretary of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam; C. Vijaya Bhaskar, State Health Minister; Sarath Kumar, actor and former MLA; and Rajandran, former MP.

The nine-page gazette notification of April 10, 2017, details the various seizures during the period running up to the byelection and the reasons why free and fair poll cannot be held. Dhinakaran was the ruling party candidate at that time.  

Sulur, Aravakurichi, Tiruparankundram and Ottapidaram are the four constituencies where byelections will be held on May 19.

The charge against Vijaya Bhaskar is the most serious:  “In a report dated the 8th April, 2017 received from Income tax department, it has been informed to the Commission that on the basis of information on tax evasion and distribution of cash during bye election at Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly Constituency (Tamil Nadu), search and seizure action under Section 132 of Income Tax Act 1961, were conducted at 21 places in Chennai and 11 outside Chennai in Tamil Nadu belonging to Dr. C. Vijaya Baskar, Minister for Health, Government of Tamil Nadu and his associates. Prominent among his associates who were searched are Shri Sarath Kumar, film actor and President, Samathuva Makkal Katchi, Shri Rajendran, AIADMK leader and former MP (2009) and Dr. S. Geetha Lakshmi, Director of Health Services (TN) and Vice Chancellor of Dr. MGR Medical University. The Income Tax authorities have also informed that several complaints were received recently indicating that Dr. C. Vijaya Baskar is the main person involved in bribing the voters in R.K. Nagar Assembly constituency which is going to bye polls on 12th April, 2017. Some loose sheets were found with his accountant Mr. Srinivasan indicating distribution of Rs. 89 crores to a number of politicians for further distribution among the voters. The premises of Shri Rajendran were also searched on receiving the input from a central agency that a huge amount of cash was brought there yesterday by particular vehicle, for distribution in R.K. Nagar constituency,” the Gazette notification said.

Money distribution charts

“Further distribution charts, ward-wise and voter-wise, entrusted to each of these politician totaling to Rs.89 crores were found and seized from the room allotted to Dr. Vijaya Baskar in the MLAs’ hostel.

“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 behavior,” the notification added.

As is the norm with all election-related offences, a case has been registered and investigation is on in all these cases. The law states: “Any conviction for the offence of ‘bribery’, even if resulting in the imposition of a very nominal fine, will automatically disqualify the convicted person for a minimum period of six years under Section 8(1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Further, such ‘bribery’ at elections is also a corrupt practice under Section 123(1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which can result in the election of the returned candidate being declared void and the candidate found guilty of commission of such corrupt practice can also be disqualified by the President on the recommendation of the Commission for a further period of six years.”

The charge against Dinakaran is he had suppressed expenditure on buying hats, the first symbol on which he contested. “Contesting Candidate, AIADMK (Amma) informed that they had made a one-time investment of Rs.30,000/- (for 1000 hats), however, on enquiry it was found that the shopkeeper whose address is mentioned in the bill informed that he had supplied 10,000 hats per day to the party. Hence, the cost of 10,000 hats i.e., Rs 3 lakhs as added as suppressed expenditure in the shadow observation register.”

The E.C. had also given specific reasons for the postponement of the Aravakuruchi and Thanjavur elections in May 2016. No one from those two regions too has been convicted in cases relating to these incidents so far.

‘People not bothered’

More than two years later, the cases against the “R.K. Nagar four” are yet to reach a conclusion. “If we look at the ethics, it is not fair to allow them to campaign. But if you simply look at the prevailing laws, nobody can prevent them [from campaigning],” said V. Ponraj, adviser to former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, when Frontline asked him if they should be allowed to campaign. “People are also not bothered about the ethical standard of politicians. Basically, this has been accepted as a norm in day-to-day politics. Normally, if they have the basis sense of ethics, they will fear to face the people. This shows that none of these politicians has the basic ethical standard in politics. Hence, they are least bothered about ethics in politics. They think people will forget and that people will not bother about this. So they take it for granted,” added Ponraj.

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