Chennai, April 17 (IANS): The cancellation of Lok Sabha elections in the Vellore constituency on Tuesday night by President Ram Nath Kovind was the result of the recent search and seizure of cash by the Income Tax (I-T) Department.
The President’s decision, as recommended by the Election Commission (EC), was based on the I-T department’s raid on a cement warehouse belonging to a DMK functionary and the subsequent seizure of Rs 11.48 crore from there earlier this month.
The I-T officials had also carried out search and seizure operations on March 29-30 at the residences of DMK Treasurer Duraimurugan and his son Anand and at Kingston Medical College, run by the Duraimurugan Educational Trust. Duraimurgan’s son D.M. Kathir Anand was the party’s Lok Sabha candidate for the Vellore constituency.
The IT department also carried out search operatios in the premises of PSK Engineering and seized about Rs 14.18 crore.
“The total cash seizure is Rs 14.18 crore while Rs 112 crore of unaccounted income has been admitted,” an I-T official told IANS about the search operations in PSK Engineering.
The search was primarily carried out to flush out cash meant for bribing voters.
The Lok Sabha elections and by-elections for 18 Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu are scheduled for April 18.
According to the I-T official, apart from cash, several incriminating documents and accounts with details of generation of unaccounted money by inflating the expenditure and payments made to influential persons were also seized.
The I-T official said that in the search operation carried out in the premises of one Sujai Reddy, evidence of investments of Rs 16 crore in a Malaysian company by him was found, which was not disclosed in his I-T returns. Unaccounted cash of Rs 18 lakh was also seized from Reddy’s premises, the official said.
Early on Wednesday, the I-T Department claimed to have seized cash amounting to Rs 1.48 crore from the premises of an AMMK functionary in Andipatti in Theni district.
The department has also summoned state Revenue and Disaster Management Minister R.B. Udhayakumar in connection with the search carried out in his room in the legislators’ hostel here.
“Our team went there along with the flying squad and checked the room. There were a number of empty bags with some slips,” a senior I-T official told IANS.
He said one policeman, who was part of Udhayakumar’s security, was present in the room.
“The slips were impounded and the statement of the policeman was recorded, which was not of much help. Summons have been issued to the Minister for recording his statement,” the I-T official said.
On April 13, Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo told reporters that the I-T Department has seized over Rs 40 crore of unaccounted cash in Tamil Nadu.
The updated figure is not available.
However, not all search operations carried out by the I-T officials have resulted in a rich haul of currency notes.
The case in point is the Tuesday night’s search operations carried out at DMK leader Kanimozhi’s house in Thoothukudi. Kanimozhi is contesting the Thoothukudi Lok Sabha seat. Not able to find any cash, the I-T officials expressed regret to her and left the place.
This prompted Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to quip on his Twitter account: “How is it that I-T gets tip-offs only about leaders of opposition parties?”
According to Chidambaram, the hallmark of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu was the autocratic actions of the I-T Department.
DMK President M.K. Stalin too complained that searches were not carried out on the premises of ruling party officials, nor was action taken on the complaints lodged.