The opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has accused a minister in the Tamil Nadu government of collecting voters’ phone numbers to bribe them using online payment apps, or e-wallets.
RS Bharathi, the DMK’s organisational secretary, has a filed a complaint with the Election Commission against SP Velumani, a minister and a leader of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), which has dismissed the allegations.
According to Bharathi, Velumani has collected mobile numbers of voters in Thondamuthur, a seat in the state’s western region the minister holds. He is up against the DMK’s Kartikeya Sivasenapathy in this constituency in the April 6 assembly elections.
“The AIADMK is focusing only on the distribution of cash for votes. They have planned to send money through Google accounts (Google Pay). The commission has promised action,” Bharathi told News18.
Satyabrato Sahoo, the state’s chief electoral officer, has admitted receiving the complaint. He said he sought the help of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to monitor dubious payments, especially those made from a small set of mobile numbers to a much larger group.
Tamil Nadu has had a history of cash-for-vote controversies. The DMK faced charges of bribing voters in a bypoll in Thirumangalam in January 2009, considered one of the first such scandals that came under public scrutiny.
In the run-up to the 2021 assembly polls, several politicians, requesting anonymity, have admitted that money could play a key role in influencing voters, lending credence to what observers have feared. Allegations of e-wallets being used for cash transfer would pose a new challenge to officials, necessitating technology-backed methods to track such payments.
However, AIADMK spokesperson Kovai Sathyan has rejected the charge, saying the opposition is coming with “new ideas” to scuttle the election process in the constituency concerned.
“The complaint by the DMK is related to Thondamuthur constituency, which is held by our minister, SP Velumani. Let us recall the incident (in the past): when (DMK president) MK Stalin went to hold a gram sabha there, he branded a lady as a messenger of SP Velumani just because she questioned him…and sent her off. They know that the AIADMK will certainly win this constituency. So, they are trying all ways and means to stop the election…”