Ending days of speculation, President of India Ram Nath Kovind has cancelled the Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore constituency. This comes a little over a week after the Election Commission and Income Tax raids unearthed a sum of Rs 11 crore in a cement warehouse with alleged links to DMK leader and Vellore candidate D M Kathir Anand. Anand is the son of party treasurer and M K Stalin aide Durai Murugan.
The ECI issued a final order, which stated: “The commission is fully satisfied that the current electoral process in 8-Vellore parliamentary constituency in Tamil Nadu has been seriously vitiated on account of unlawful activities of certain candidates and some members/workers of the political party and in the Commission's considered opinion, allowing the current electoral process to proceed and conducting the poll in the said constituency on 18th April 2019, as scheduled, in such a vitiated atmosphere would severely jeopardize the conduct of free and fair election in said constituency."
Speculation was rife that Anand would be in trouble when an FIR was filed against him and two members of his poll team for holding income disproportionate to what was mentioned on his election affidavit. A DMK functionary had also confessed to officials that the recovered cash was to bribe voters in Vellore. The subsequent cancellation of polls in the constituency now makes Vellore the first-ever Lok Sabha seat to have elections cancelled on account of cash-for-votes.
Soon after the cancellation order was issued, Election Commission and Income Tax officials carried out raids at the home of DMK Rajya Sabha MP and Tuticorin candidate Kanimozhi Karunanidhi. The move prompted party chief and Kanimozhi’s half-brother, MK Stalin, to hit out at the Election Commission and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Modi is using the Election Commission to deliberately target the DMK,” said Stalin, speaking to the media. “Tamilisai Soundararajan (TN BJP President and candidate for Tuticorin) has crores of rupees at her residence. Why are there no raids at her place?”
DMK sources told CNBC-TV18 that the party is expecting more raids at homes of DMK candidates, in constituencies where the party is expected to win the polls. Thirty-eight constituencies in Tamil Nadu, with the exception of Vellore (post-cancellation), will go to the polls on April 18.
"We are consulting our lawyers and will take legal recourse if we are advised to do so," said DMK spokesperson TKS Elangovan. "This is unwarranted interference in the poll process."
First Published: IST