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Taking action

Taking action

Based on a Right to Information application, the Election Commission Sunday directed officials to file a FIR against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanswami, Health Minister Vijayabhaskar and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Amma) leader TTV Dinakaran, among others in the RK Nagar bye-poll bribery case. This development has further undermined the credibility of the State government, which is itself is struggling to deal with a whole host of pressing governance-related concerns, including a severe drought and farmer distress. On April 9, the Election Commission of India decided to countermand the by-poll for the Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly seat in Tamil Nadu merely hours before campaigning was to end. The poll body alleged that the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Amma) faction now led by TTV Dinakaran had attempted to bribe voters. Following the untimely death of the former chief minister, Jayalalithaa, in December the RK Nagar seat was left vacant. This is not the first time Tamil Nadu was witness to such alleged crimes. Last May, the poll body had rescinded elections to the Thanjavur and Aravakurichi constituencies after it caught parties openly distributing cash among voters. Since the introduction of electoral reforms in the 1990s, the ECI has shown greater intent in cleaning up the corruption that has distorted verdicts and introduced better logistics to ensure peace during voting.

Despite attempts to weed out corruption and force parties into following the rules through its imposition of the Model Code of Conduct, it has been unable to change much. In fact, the ECI was unable to act against the candidates responsible for such blatant acts of bribery in the Thanjavur and Aravakurichi constituencies and the same set of candidates contested again when the election was held in October. The recent RK Nagar episode does represent a serious test of the poll body's credibility. By directing officials to file cases against Dinakaran and the CM, the commission has seemingly put its foot down.

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