Cash for votes — Tamil Nadu's best kept open secret
A month ago, when election authorities in Tamil Nadu began receiving complaints of cash distribution by major parties ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Election Commission told two judges of the Madras High Court, in unambiguous terms, that “cash for votes” was a major problem.
A few days later came ‘Operation Vellore’. Between March 29 and April 1, the authorities conducted “search and seizure operations”, initially at the residence of DMK treasurer Durai Murugan and his son Kathir Anand, the party’s candidate for the Vellore Lok Sabha constituency. Later, the premises of close associates of Mr. Anand and their relatives were searched. The operation on All Fools Day yielded a total cash seizure of ₹11.48 crore. The poll process in Vellore was subsequently cancelled.
By the time the poll process was over in the remaining 38 Lok Sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu, cash seizures alone added up to several tens of crores of rupees. As on April 25, the value of cash seizures was around ₹215 crore, almost 10 times the cash seized during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Even though not all the cash seized is meant for bribing voters, the seizures this time around only underscore the gravity of the problem, which has a long history in Tamil Nadu. Video clips have also emerged showing political party functionaries distributing money to voters in some places and publicly discussing how to take the money to voters without being caught.