"I, (name), do swear in the name of 2000 rupee note Gandhi Thatha that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the leader of my party as by political self-interest established, that I will uphold the preservation and interest of our party, that I will unethically and fraudulently discharge my duties as a Minister for the State and that I will do right to all manner of voters in accordance with the black money bundles at our disposal, without fear of Election Commission flying squads but ill-will against our rival political parties.''
Did some of the ministers in Tamil Nadu take this oath afresh ahead of the 12 April RK Nagar by-election in Chennai? It would seem so, going by the documents that are in the public domain subsequent to the 20-hour long Income Tax raids on 35 locations on Friday and Saturday. Most of them are linked to Tamil Nadu Health minister C Vijayabaskar who was among those raided. And if the documents are anything to go by, the rot is right at the top. And it stinks of an un-Swachh Tamil Nadu.
One document has its subject on top as 'RK Nagar assembly constituency by-election 2017 : Candidate TTV Dhinakaran'. It lists out in great detail the 256 divisions, the RK Nagar constituency has been broken down to, and if authentic, points to how chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami, five ministers and one Rajya Sabha MP have been put in charge of 30,000 to 40,000 voters each. The clinical approach to bribing 2.24 lakh voters with ₹4000 each is articulated in the note, with amounts allocated to each of the seven VIPs mentioned. The total amount to be spent on providing this ATM at every doorstep comes to over ₹89 crore.
₹89,65,80,000 to be precise.
Going by the document, now in the possession of the I-T department, Municipal administration minister SP Velumani was considered the most resourceful of the lot. He had been allocated ₹14,91,64000 to net 37,291 votes. Divide the amount and you get ₹4,000. Videos of Dhinakaran's men giving the amount are already doing the rounds on social media. Eyewitness accounts also have been recorded with voters admitted to getting ₹4,000 per vote from the Dhinakaran AIADMK.
It is an open secret that Palaniswami could lose his chair, if Dhinakaran loses and half a dozen MLAs cross over to the Panneerselvam camp.
It is an open secret that Palaniswami could lose his chair if Dhinakaran loses and half a dozen MLAs cross over to the Panneerselvam camp. Which is perhaps why, according to the document, the CM has been entrusted the responsibility of garnering 33,193 votes for which he has been allocated ₹13.27 crore. The seven VIPs are further assisted by other ministers and senior AIADMK functionaries. For all practical purposes, the Tamil Nadu political establishment is Arjuna-like looking at the eye of the RK Nagar fish.
The AIADMK denies any attempt to bribe the voters and claims it is being framed. Vijayabaskar said he was being harassed and that he did not have even ₹10,000 with him. AIADMK leaders allege the raids were with an eye to defame the party and countermand the by-election.
But the documents will mean Vijayabaskar will have a lot of answering to do in the coming days. Given the conspiracy theories surrounding the actual health status of Jayalalithaa, one particular entry will be under sharp scrutiny.
Rewind to October 2016 when Jayalalithaa was in the critical care unit at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai. Three byelections in Thanjavur, Aravakurichi and Thiruparankundram were to be held on 19 November. Dr P Balaji, who is a Professor of Minimal Access Surgery at the Madras Medical College attested Jayalalithaa's thumb impression on Form B that was submitted to the Election Commission. Dr Balaji certified on the document submitted on 28 October, writing : "Since the signatory has undergone tracheostomy recently and has an inflamed right hand, she is temporarily unable to affix her signature. Hence she has affixed her left thumb impression on her own in my presence.''
Given that a payment was reportedly made immediately after the candidate forms were submitted, I-T officials will have to probe if it is the same Dr Balaji and if yes, why was this payment made?
No one suspected anything hanky panky then but a document seized during the I-T raid shows a payment of ₹5 lakh made to one Dr Balaji on 1 November "for expenses on HM instructions''. Given that a payment was reportedly made immediately after the candidate forms were submitted, I-T officials will have to probe if it is the same Dr Balaji and if yes, why was this payment made?
The document also mentions huge amounts given by drug manufacturers and college managements. The rather meticulous accounting may or may not stand scrutiny in court, but Vijayabaskar will still have to explain the entries to the sleuths. Other documents also suggest rampant corruption in transfers in different departments, with an entry staying 'Transfer and Posting : 2,38,75,000'.
In fact, during the raid, a local Tamil channel caught on tape a staffer at Vijayabasker's residence running out with an envelope carrying documents and throwing it out to AIADMK supporters waiting outside the gate. The visual evidence clearly suggested there is more than what meets the eye.
Not that the Election Commission did not know RK Nagar will see the Amma of all poll violations. In fact, it had transferred most officials in the police, revenue and municipal departments to prevent any help from government authorities to the ruling party. It even posted five observers, the highest ever in India's electoral history.
In view of the evidence seized during the raids, the Election Commission will have to take a call on whether the poll process in RK Nagar has been severely compromised. If it feels so, it can exercise the option of countermanding the 12 April poll and later announce a fresh date.
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