Polling in Tamil Nadu's Vellore Lok Sabha constituency has been cancelled, the Election Commission said on Tuesday, after Rs 11.5 crore in cash was allegedly seized from a warehouse belonging to a DMK candidate earlier this month. Vellore was to go to polls on Thursday, along with 38 other seats of Tamil Nadu as part of the second phase of general elections.
"Accepting the recommendation of the Election Commission dated 14th April 2019, President has rescinded the election to Vellore parliamentary constituency, Tamil Nadu," the Election Commission said in a statement.
This is the first time that Lok Sabha polls to a constituency have been cancelled over alleged use of cash for bribing voters. So far, over Rs 500 crore have been seized from Tamil Nadu with Rs 205 crore in cash and the rest in gold.
The DMK has called it a "murder of democracy" and told NDTV that they will challenge the decision to cancel polls.
23 candidates are contesting for the Vellore constituency.
After the cash was seized, the district police had filed a complaint against the accused, DM Kathir Anand, as well as two party functionaries on the basis of a report from the Income Tax department on April 10.
Mr Anand is the son of senior party leader Durai Murugan.
On March 30, Income Tax officials had conducted searches at Durai Murugan's residence over suspected use of unaccounted money for electioneering, and seized Rs. 10.50 lakh in alleged "excess" cash. Durai Murugan, however, said that he had not concealed anything. Questioning the timing of the Income Tax department's operation, he alleged that the raids were a "conspiracy" by certain political leaders who could not face them in the electoral arena.
Two days later, the Income Tax officials claimed to have seized Rs. 11.53 crore from a cement godown belonging to a DMK leader's associate in the same district. According to tax officials, they had also seized evidences from the premises showing how the cash was bundled ward wise to bribe the voters.
A senior official of the Election Commission told NDTV, "The Income Tax department's report was very damaging... after examining the report along with Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer's report, the commission decided to cancel the poll in Vellore Parliamentary constituency and sent the recommendation to the President for the same".
In 2017, the Election Commission had postponed the by-election for the RK Nagar Assembly constituency after complaints of large-scale bribing of voters.
With inputs from agencies