Polls scrapped in Tamil Nadu ward over vote-buying bid

Election workers transporting electronic voting machines on horseback to the Darjeeling polling station in Srikhola, near the India-Nepal border, for the second phase of voting in the Indian elections.
Election workers transporting electronic voting machines on horseback to the Darjeeling polling station in Srikhola, near the India-Nepal border, for the second phase of voting in the Indian elections. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

India's election watchdog seizes $2m from candidate; no new polling date set yet

NEW DELHI • India's election authorities have cancelled voting in a southern region of the country after seizing more than 110 million rupees (S$2 million) from a candidate, which they believe was meant to influence the outcome, officials said yesterday.

It is the first time a ballot has been cancelled in a national election over attempted vote-buying, officials said.

The decision comes as Indians vote in a mammoth national election that is being held over several phases, the next of which begins today.

But voters in the Vellore constituency in coastal Tamil Nadu state will not be going to the polls as scheduled after the Election Commission of India (ECI) ruled that there were fears of a "systematic design to influence voters".

The ruling came after the authorities seized more than 110 million rupees from a candidate in the run-up to the vote.

The commission said late on Tuesday that the environment in Vellore was no longer conducive to "free and ethical" elections.

No new date has been announced for polling in the constituency.

Nearly 100 constituencies in 13 states will go to the polls today in the second round of the seven-phase election that began last Thursday. Almost 900 million voters are eligible to cast their votes to elect 543 members to the Lower House of Parliament, with results expected on May 23.

Attempts to secure votes in return for cash, liquor, electronic gadgets and even goats have been reported across Tamil Nadu in the run-up to voting.

More than 1.3 billion rupees and one tonne of gold worth three billion rupees have been seized in the state since polling dates were announced on March 10.

Elsewhere in the country, polls have been delayed by five days in parts of the north-eastern state of Tripura over security fears. Polls there will now be held on April 23.

And, in the country's east, Bangladeshi star actor Ferdous Ahmed has been forced to leave India after he was discovered campaigning for a candidate from the opposition Congress party, officials at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kolkata said.

Campaigning for the second phase of polls ended on Tuesday evening. Officials said they had started sending electronic voting machines and election staff to the polling stations, and security arrangements were also in place.

On Monday, the ECI acted against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Maneka Gandhi and Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan over inappropriate comments.

Mr Adityanath and Mr Khan have been barred from campaigning for three days, while Ms Mayawati and Ms Gandhi have been banned for two.

In the ongoing elections, the ruling BJP is seeking to regain power under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mr Modi faces competition from Mr Rahul Gandhi, the fourth-generation scion of India's powerful Nehru-Gandhi family, and regional parties that have forged coalitions in several states.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2019, with the headline 'Polls scrapped in Tamil Nadu ward over vote-buying bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe