‘Defeated by money power’

Print edition : July 22, 2016

PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss. Photo: R. Ravindran

Interview with Anbumani Ramadoss, PMK leader.

IN the run-up to the Assembly election in May, former Union Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss was one of the most visible politicians in Tamil Nadu. Soon after the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) named him as its chief ministerial candidate, posters appeared all over the State detailing Anbumani’s plans and vision for the State. The PMK, which had donned the role of a shadow government for about two decades, declared it was ready to lead the State.

In an exclusive interview after the election, Anbumani told Frontline that money power defeated him and his party.

Excerpts:

You have been talking about money distribution for votes across all the 234 constituencies. What specific information does the PMK have to support the allegation that money was distributed?

I can go back to the previous election [2011] when the AIADMK gave Rs.200 each to all the voters in all the constituencies. Earlier, if a constituency had 2.5 lakh voters, the party would give money to one lakh or 75,000 voters. This time, the AIADMK paid two lakh voters, that is, 80 per cent of the voters. Both the DMK and the AIADMK distributed money. Former DMK Ministers gave Rs.1,000 for every vote. That was the standard across [the State]. AIADMK Ministers spent Rs.2,000 for every vote. This was their strategy. The thumb rule in this election was that those who gave Rs.1,000 for a vote won by about 40,000-50,000 votes; those who gave Rs.500 per vote won by about 20,000-30,000 votes; and those who gave Rs.250 to Rs.300 per vote won by about 10,000.

The AIADMK has always given Rs.50 or Rs.100 more than the DMK. In Tiruvarur, the DMK gave Rs.1,000 per vote; in R.K. Nagar, the AIADMK distributed Rs.1,000. In Kolathur, the DMK gave Rs.5,000 per family. So, all the leaders bribed the voters of Tamil Nadu. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, only the AIADMK distributed money. This time both the parties gave money and split the seats between them.

The PMK decided not to bribe the voter, instead the party held huge rallies and meetings all over the State. It is alleged that although the PMK headquarters and the party’s candidates did not distribute cash, the party’s local body representatives gave money in some places.

Can you prove this? We do not have money to give and our policy is not to bribe the voter. On May 14, all the 232 party candidates took an oath that we would not bribe voters. When I met the Chief Election Commissioner in New Delhi, he told me: “We have got information that your party did not distribute money and you have done a clean election.” And then he congratulated me. I think the DMK spent Rs.6,000 crore and the AIADMK spent nearly Rs.10,000 crore for this election, of which 80 to 90 per cent was spent on bribing voters. The AIADMK was not seen to be campaigning. For instance, at one point of time [in my constituency], the DMK’s expenditure [submitted to the E.C.] was Rs.18 lakh, our expenditure was Rs.14 lakh. The AIADMK’s expenditure was Rs.2 lakh. Because they did not hold any public meetings, no campaigning; the candidate alone was seen going around. We, on the contrary, were going around campaigning. The DMK was also doing that.

The AIADMK’s strategy was to send four people to a village. These people would stay there till evening and get details such as who is a DMK sympathiser, who will vote on community lines, and who is a neutral voter. They did this for 15 days. They did micro-level planning of voters, and worked out how much money should be given and who the money should be given to. For every 25 voters, they appointed one person. That person had Rs.30,000 to Rs.40,000 in his pocket. They became active only in the last two days of the election. Their modus operandi was two persons would first go with AIADMK handbills to canvass votes; one person would follow them; he would give the money. Nobody could catch them because they did not carry a large amount of money. We caught four of them. We handed them over to the police. In Dharmapuri alone, 27 first information reports [FIRs] were filed against the DMK and the AIADMK. One AIADMK cadre was found with more than Rs.2 lakh. But no action was taken. An FIR was filed, that is all.

So, in your view, people voted for the party that gave them more money?

People voted for the person who gave them more. In my constituency, [M.K.] Stalin [DMK treasurer, who led the party in the election] made sure I lost. He sees me as a future threat. Their aim appears to be to tell the people that even the chief ministerial candidate [of the PMK] lost.

My party candidates told me that in all the constituencies voters were bribed. The DMK, for instance, targeted my stronghold.

For instance, if I got 900 votes in a village in the Lok Sabha election, this election I got only 350 votes or 400 votes. The remaining 500 got split between the DMK and the AIADMK. Families which had earlier voted en masse for me now cast a few votes in favour of the DMK or the AIADMK. That is why I lost. I got 58,000 votes. I should have got at least 75,000 votes. That margin was taken away by money.

This is what happened across the State. The Election Commission was completely ineffective. In Aravakuruchi, the election was postponed [at that time, later the notification was rescinded] because Rs.5,000 was distributed [to each voter]. In my constituency, initially Rs.500 was given. So the election will be postponed only if Rs.5,000 is given? Rs.500 is not money? If the E.C. could postpone polling in Aravakuruchi, then it could postpone election in all the other constituencies as well. I gave a complaint to the Chief Electoral Officer of Tamil Nadu and sent a copy to the CEC.

Is it possible to control money distribution?

It is definitely possible. We said some changes have to be made. The E.C. should ask for a taped video from party leaders where they insist that their party men should not pay money, and voters should not take money for votes. They should make it clear that both giving and taking money for votes are punishable offences. A candidate found distributing money should be disqualified and not allowed to contest the next two elections. Even after he wins, if he is found to have distributed money, he should be disqualified. If the E.C. has this power, then it will put fear into the minds of candidates.

If a party is found distributing money in, say, 10 constituencies, it should be disqualified, derecognised and its election symbol withdrawn. See, giving money is not a secret. If you are distributing it among 1,000 people, you can do it secretly. But you are giving to two lakh people. This cannot be a secret.

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