With the election commission receiving its first ever complaint on bribery through Bitcoins, a virtual currency active in the cyber underworld, the absurd mechanism of buying votes for cash and goodies in Tamil Nadu seems to have evolved with changing times.
While the most recent claim made by a Coimbatore-based AIADMK cadre might be too far fetched and not yet affordable for even the most affluent politicians, as cyber experts claim, psephologists here point out that the very fact that this technology has been mentioned in a complaint means that this method of transferring wealth has atleast been discussed in party circles and among cadres.
According to the state Election Commission (EC), a total of Rs.19.30 crores of unaccounted cash has been seized in the run up to the present Lok Sabha elections so far besides seizure of valuables including gold worth atleast Rs. 17 crores.
In the most recent incident, scores of AIADMK cadres stormed into a house at Pachiammal Street in Central Chennai constituency and seized cash stuffed inside tiffin boxes. The complainants alleged that former Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran’s associates had been distributing the money.
The Election Commission has received several such complaints over the past few weeks where allegations have been made about distribution of cash in biryani packets, along with liquor bottles as well as dhotis and saris with party flags across the state. “We are looking into all the complaints and will proceed further if we find any concrete evidence,” said an EC official.
“Not just with Lok Sabha or Assembly polls, even during local body elections, voters expect money from the contesting candidates. If we do not pay them cash, they tell us face to face that their vote will not be for us,” says a DMK councilor from Thiruverkadu municipality. “With the EC now being very strict, voters in some areas even ask us to recharge their mobile phones, purchase new clothes or even pay their bills instead of handing out cash,” he adds.
Politcal analysts in the state point out that the practice of wooing voters through supplying goodies has been existing for a long time. “Even thirty years ago, a leading businessman who contested in an election from Tirunelveli had distributed silver vessels to all the voters in his constituency to get votes. But, it was not taken seriously until former Chief Election Commissioner T.N Seshan was at the helm and cracked down on such violations,” says a veteran political analyst here.
The malaise got worse during by elections when ruling parties had completely control over the law and order machinery in the state. Former Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta had even gone to the extent of stating that one of his main concerns regarding elections in the state was that the voter in TN was now demanding cash for his vote and considered it as a sort of a right.