The Election Commission of India announces bypolls on 19 May for the remaining four Assembly seats
It’s all set to rain more cash in Tamil Nadu as the last four vacant Assembly seats gear up to go to bypoll on 19 March.
With the courts quickly clearing up the cases before it over elections in Aravakurichi, Ottapidaram and Thiruparankundram, the ECI decided to add these to the list of 18 Assembly constituencies already in the fray on 18 April. Sulur, which fell vacant after sitting AIADMK MLA Kanagaraj passed away recently, will also go to polls.
The judgement over the Thiruparankundram seat, in particular, was a setback for the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), as the court ruled that the ‘thumb impression’ affixed by then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on the nomination papers of the candidate AK Bose, was not valid. The court also slammed the Election Commission for not taking enough steps to verify the authenticity of the thumb impression which was affixed while Jayalalithaa was hospitalised.
Aravakurichi is likely to be a keen contest, as the MLA who won the seat, Senthil Balaji, was disqualified when he shifted loyalties to the TTV Dhinakaran faction. Since then he has moved to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and is expected to be a candidate from the same seat.
Aravakurichi attained notoriety in 2016 when the election was rescinded twice due to large scale distribution of money to voters of the area. The ECI had termed the election process in the constituency “seriously vitiated”.
Senthil Balaji had, in 2016, fought for the AIADMK on the two-leaves symbol. Aravakurichi belongs to Karur district where, in 2016, Rs 4.8 crore of cash and 12 cash counting machines were recovered by ECI officials from inside a van that was made to look like an ambulance. This van was parked in the home of businessman CP Anbunathan, allegedly a close aide of the then AIADMK candidate.
Thanks to this, along with 429.24 litres of liquor, 33.25 kg of silver worth Rs 9 lakh and another Rs 2 crore of cash hauls, the ECI decided, for the first time in the history of independent India, to rescind elections for voter bribery. Elections in other constituencies had been rescinded earlier for violence, booth capturing and other such offences. Apart from Aravakurichi, elections to Thanjavur was also rescinded. Later, the bypolls to RK Nagar, following the death of Jayalalithaa were also rescinded for the same reason – huge cash flow to voters in the area.
With four more Assembly segments in the reckoning, it is party time indeed for Tamil Nadu’s voters!