RK Nagar bypolls: Campaigning ends today, polling on 21 December

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Chennai: All eyes are on Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar (RK Nagar) constituency in Chennai as the campaign concludes on Tuesday evening ahead of the by-election on Thursday.

The Election Commission of India has deployed nine observers, the highest-ever for an election in one constituency, for the bypolls.

On Friday, Vikram Batra and Manvendra Goyal were appointed as special officer and expenditure observer, respectively.

With around 2,500 security personnel, over 200 surveillance cameras, 75 flying squad teams, 21 static surveillance teams, 20 monitoring teams with video recording devices and around 45 check posts, the RK Nagar by-election is the costliest in the country ever. According to a report in The Times of India, the massive arrangements, unprecedented for a bypoll, will cost the EC Rs3 crore. Typically, around Rs60 lakh is spent on a by-election, said the report.

In April, bypolls to this constituency, which fell vacant after the death of former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, were cancelled following complaints of widespread distribution of cash to voters. An income-tax raid at the residence of health minister C. Vijayabaskar and seizure of documents by officials suggested an alleged payment of Rs89 crore to voters by the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

Though the EC had then observed that “the political parties and their leaders at the top echelons have devised to bypass the law enforcing authorities entrusted with the task of keeping an eye on the unauthorized and illegal expenses incurred in the conduct of election campaigns of their party candidates need to be dealt with heavy hand”, no action followed.

Recently, opposition leader and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) working president M.K. Stalin observed: “Last time, the bypoll was cancelled just two days before the polling day, after the IT raids found that several crores of money was offered to voters. What action have the authorities taken against those responsible?”

Eight months later, there seems to be no dearth to complaints of cash distribution in RK Nagar which is witnessing a triangular contest between the AIADMK, the sidelined T.T.V. Dhinakaran and the DMK.

The DMK on Sunday alleged that the ruling AIADMK had distributed over Rs100 crore. Asking the EC “to ensure free and fair election”, Stalin wrote to the poll panel to take action against AIADMK candidate E. Madhusudhanan. The AIADMK, on its part, denied the charges and alleged that the DMK was bribing voters.

Stalin also alleged distribution of money by Dhinakaran, who is contesting from RK Nagar as an independent candidate.

While campaigning for DMK’s N. Maruthu Ganesh, Stalin on Sunday said that he expects the assembly elections in the state within the next 2-3 months and the RK Nagar would be a precursor to that.

“This is not just a bypoll. The victory of DMK would be a forerunner for ensuring assembly election and would lead to a DMK government in the state,” said Stalin.

There are 228,234 voters in RK Nagar, where the by-election was necessitated after Jayalalithaa’s death on 5 December last year.