EC moves to choke money route in TN

Parties may find it hard to replicate Tirumangalam model of cash-for-votes

It seems the EC is not taking any chances this time after the infamous ‘Tirumangalam model’ of cash-for-votes, allegedly employed during byelections in January 2009. Some leaders of the ruling DMK were allegedly involved in bribing voters then.

Enter the first hill-abode of the Tamil God Lord Muruga at Tiruparankundram, the first rural constituency outside Madurai city, and you will find quaint blue notices of the Election Commission (EC) order prohibiting ‘tourists and outsiders’ staying in the ‘Kalyana Chatramas’ till the polling day.

‘Radha Mahal’, ‘Kathirvel Pillai Kalyana Mahal’ and the ‘Nadar Uravin Murai Kalyana Mahal’, on the otherwise busy pilgrim-filled Temple street, present a desolate look with locked doors. The EC’s rigorous guidelines are working and when there is no marriage function on, no one can use such spaces for ‘extra-curricular poll activities’, as the locals put it.

While alleged money distribution seems no longer easy with thorough vehicle checks, there is still a seamy side to it, says Arumugam. Madurai West is considered a prestigious seat for the ruling DMK where M K Alagiri’s lieutenant Thalapathy is in the fray. Incidentally, Alagiri had become the central figure in the cash-for-vote controversy in 2009, exposed by the WikiLeaks.

“But they (DMK men) seem to have found ingenious ways to beat the EC rigour,” laments Arumugam. Since EC officials check mainly cars, cash in smaller quantities is now carried allegedly in two-wheelers and distributed to groups of families who are invited to a common house for ostensible ‘birthday parties’.

“Still they cannot do such things on a big scale as it is a state-wide election,” comments a retired government official here who does not want to be named.  Alagiri’s “systematic way of meeting voters’ expectations have become well known,” but the political context now after the spectrum scam has drastically changed, says the official.

“Spectrum issue has hit the DMK, but ‘kasuthaane ooduthu, (it’s money that runs)”, remarked a coconut seller in Virdhunagar, the late Congress leader Kamaraj’s birthplace, where in this poll the Congress is pitted against the DMDK.

It is this dicey big picture for the DMK that has made Alagiri depend on vote-catchers like actress Kushboo now to keep his winning streak going.

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