High-pitched last minute campaigns by leaders across the political spectrum came to an end on Saturday, with a couple of startling admissions by the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). Party spokesperson TKS Elangovan admitted to CNN-News18 that the DMK was indeed divided over the question of who their chief ministerial candidate should be.
"Yes there is no doubt there is one section of the party, especially the youngsters who want Stalin to be CM candidate but we have a more experienced leader (Karunanidhi) and we want to use his knowledge," he said.
DMK chief Karunanidhi and heir apparent MK Stalin finished their campaigns with a flourish – Karuna ending what could be the 92-year-old's final election campaign on a nostalgic note, speaking of his own life dedicated in entirety to the Dravidian movement in the state. Leaders of all other parties too revved up their final pitches ahead of polling on May 16.
Only AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa was conspicuous by her absence, as she rested in her Poes Garden home all day Saturday.
The Election Commission's focus now turns toward one final aggressive push to curb money power ahead of polling on May 16. As reports streamed in of amounts ranging between Rs 500 to Rs 2500 per vote being distributed by both the DMK and the AIADMK, the EC's 6000 teams have swung into action, verifying complaints.
The DMK made one more admission on the issue of cash distribution. "Some of our workers got carried away due to the large scale cash distribution being done by the AIADMK," said Elangovan.
"They felt they too had to distribute in order to counter the AIADMK’s money power," he added.
The EC has postponed polling in Aravakurichi constituency from May 16 to May 23, citing "seriously vitiated atmosphere" due to large cash seizures of over Rs 8 crore in the constituency since April. This is the first time in the history of elections in Tamil Nadu that such power has been exercised by the Commission and is widely seen as a blot on the state.
In a statement on Saturday, the ECI said, "The Commission is satisfied that the current electoral process in said 134-Aravakurichi Assembly Constituency in Tamil Nadu has been seriously vitiated on account of unlawful activities of the candidates and political parties and their workers in bribing the electors and unlawfully inducing them by offering money and other gifts of consumable items to woo them in their favour."
Another mystery cash seizure of Rs 570 crore loaded into three container trucks created a flutter across the state as confusion prevailed over who the money belonged to. After about eight hours, State Bank of India officials came forward to claim the cash as theirs. A 15-member Election Commission team is verifying documents produced by the bank authorities and this is likely to be completed by Sunday night.