Polling in Vellore seat cancelled

Polling for the Vellore constituency in Tamil Nadu was cancelled after the Election Commission found a “systematic design to influence voters through large scale distribution of cash”. This marks the first time polling in a Lok Sabha constituency has been called off on grounds of voter bribery and corrupt practices. Vellore was to vote on April 18.

In 2016, assembly polls in two constituencies — Thanjavur and Aravakurichi — were cancelled for the same reason, followed by rescinding of a bypoll to the R K Nagar assembly seat in 2017. All these constituencies are in Tamil Nadu. Acting on the EC’s recommendation, President Ram Nath Kovind cancelled polling in Vellore over alleged “unlawful activities” of DMK candidate Kathir Anand and some workers of the party.

A notification issued by the law ministry on Tuesday said the EC, while making a recommendation to the President on Sunday, informed him that “allowing the current electoral process to proceed and conducting the poll in the said constituency on April 18, 2019... in such a vitiated atmosphere would severely jeopardise the conduct of free and fair election”.

The cancellation came days after Rs.11.48 crore cash was unearthed during income tax raids on premises owned by DMK functionary Poonjolai Srinivasan’s brother-in-law Damodaran in Vellore. Srinivasan later claimed ownership of the money and in his statement said the cash was meant to influence voters. “The fact that the claimant (Srinavasan) does not have any explained source of income and that the documents found with the cash pertain to an institution run by the family of the DMK candidate lays bare the nexus between the candidate and the sums so found,” the EC said.

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