ECI to countermand Erode East byelection? It will depend on the report of its observers

The observers are sending a report to the Chief Election Commissioner on the alleged disbursal of cash for votes in the Erode East bypolls.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Feb 21, 2023 | 9:49 PM Updated Feb 21, 2023 | 9:49 PM

Erode East election

Following complaints from the AIADMK and the BJP, election observers are set to send a report to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) on the allegedly widespread disbursal of cash for votes and freebies as bribes to voters in the Erode East byelection, scheduled for 27 February.

According to sources, the general observers appointed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) — Rajkumar Yadav and Suresh Kumar Chadive — to monitor the byelection, had a meeting with Gautam Kumar, the expenditure observer, on Tuesday, 21 February.

The observers also recorded a few statements by voters to whom the DMK — the ruling party — had allegedly given pressure cookers, anklets, etc, as bribes.

They also took note of the money spent by the DMK and the Congress, these sources told South First.

Based on the reports, the ECI would decide on going forward with the poll process, even as there are unconfirmed reports that the election could be postponed following the widespread disbursal of cash for votes in the Assembly segment.

Also read: 73 independents try their luck in Erode East bypoll

‘Wait and see’

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Tamil Nadu BJP state president Annamalai slammed the State Election Commission officials, alleging that they had colluded with the ruling DMK and blatantly lied to the Madras High Court that the election was being conducted in a fair manner.

Annamalai told reporters that he believed that the ECI observers would act on the misuse of power by the ruling DMK ministers and would take an appropriate decision.

Asked about the chances of the byelection being withheld, the BJP leader said that one would have to wait and see.

Also read: Tamil Maanila Congress gives up Erode East for AIADMK

Complaint and counter-complaint

In a communication to the CEC of India, on 14 February, Annamalai said: “The State Election Commission has yet to act on the BJP Tamil Nadu’s complaint and has done nothing significant to prevent the ruling DMK government from abusing power. Sir, we respectfully request that you take immediate action to ensure a free and fair election in Erode East.”

The AIADMK, on its part, saw former minister C Ve Shanmugam saying in his complaint to the ECI that out of the 2,26,867 names in the voter list, 30,056 names were not those of local residents.

He also said 7,947 names were those of the dead and 1,009 names had double entries.

The ECI sought an explanation from Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo regarding the complaint.

Meanwhile, in a case filed by Shanmugam in the Madras High Court praying for a direction to conduct free and fair elections, the Additional Chief Electoral Officer told the court that 12 flying squads and 12 static surveillance teams had been deployed in the constituency to ensure the implementation of the Model Code of Conduct and to prevent illegal activities.

So far, 455 complaints have been received by the ECI regarding the Erode East byelection, with cases being registered on 43 of them.