Political parties and their top leaders used 'innovative ways' in bribing voters in the RK Nagar assembly seat to outwit law enforcement authorities mandated with keeping an eye on poll expenditure, according to probe by the Election Commission.
Many complaints were received by the Commission on possibilities of inducement of electors by distributing cash and gifts in innovative forms like tokens, prepaid phone recharge coupons, newspaper subscription, milk tokens, money transfer in no frill accounts in banks and even mobile wallet payment to mobile numbers.
The Commission, which cancelled the April 12 bypoll in RK Nagar assembly seat in Tamil Nadu following use of money power to influence voters, said in its order on Sunday night that 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’.
In its elaborate 33-page order, the poll watchdog said it cannot help ‘expressing its anguish over the sordid state of affairs’ as revealed in the reports of the election expenditure observers, election expenditure monitoring teams, as well as the reports of the Income Tax authorities.
The innovative ways which the political parties and their leaders at the top echelons have devised to bypass the law enforcing authorities entrusted with the task of keeping an eye on the unauthorised and illegal expenses incurred in the conduct of election campaigns of their party candidates need to be dealt with heavy hand, it observed.
‘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 signed by the three Commissioners said.
The order pointed out that on the complaints of distribution of money, gift articles and violation of model code, till April 7 an amount of Rs 18,80,700 was seized and 35 first information reports were registered.
“Apart from cash, various items such as lamps, T-shirts, silver plates, mobile phones and sarees, which were used for distribution to workers, were also seized,” it said.
The EC will come out with a fresh date for the bypoll which was necessitated following the demise of J Jayalalithaa.
IMAGE: Tamil Nadu Health Minister Vijaya Baskar with Income Tax department officials during a raid by them at his residence in Chennai. Photograph: R Senthil Kumar/PTI Photo