Just over two weeks after the Income Tax Department submitted its report on the bribery allegations during the 2017 RK Nagar bye-elections in Tamil Nadu, a statement in the report, made by the father of Health Minister Vijaya Baskar, has put the state government in a quandary.
Wide-scale allegations of bribery during the RK Nagar bye-elections by the various factions of the AIADMK had resulted in the cancellation of the elections, which was scheduled to be held in April 2017. Following raids on the properties of minister Vijaya Baskar, the IT Department had said that unaccounted cash worth Rs 20,00,000 was discovered.
According to The News Minute A portion of the report on the bribery allegations submitted by the IT Department to the Election Commission (EC) and the Tamil Nadu government was accessed by the media on Saturday.
The report revealed that Chinnathambi, father of Health Minister, was questioned regarding the discovery of interview call letters addressed to prospective candidates for employment in the state’s nutrition meal programme.
In a statement recorded by the Income Tax Department in April 2017, Chinnathambi stated that “the amount of Rs 12,96,000 was received from various persons to get a job for each of them.”
During the April 2017 raids at the Minister’s Pudukottai residence, the Income Tax Department seized cash worth Rs 20,00,000. A part of this cash (Rs 12,96,000), which was found in brown envelopes, was set aside for the jobs in the nutrition meal programme.
Soon after news of the report emerged, Chinnathambi denied confessing to the IT Department. In a statement released to the media, he said that his family pays their income taxes and abide by the law.
He said, “It is painful to me and my family that such false reports are being published. In the April 7, no cash was recovered in the raids that took place in my house.” He also stated that the news reports were politically motivated.
Incidentally, the IT report also notes the sworn statement of the Minister denying this.
— Manasa Rao (@manasarao) September 1, 2018
In yet more incriminating evidence, the report also details the findings at the premises of Vijaya Baskar’s aides. In one such search at the flat of his personal assistant J Srinivasan in Chennai, two documents “containing date-wise notings of fund collection and its application” had been recovered from an email address operated by the PA.
The Income Tax Department concludes that the date-wise entries revealed that the collection of funds had been made through private/personal assistant to the Health Minister from various entities/persons connected to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The details of ‘funds collected’ as per the receipts are as following:
Rs 3,91,28,000 collected between July 23 and August 18, 2016
Rs 1,99,25,000 collected between August 19 and September 1, 2016
Rs 84,50,000 collected between September 2 and September 12, 2016
Rs 6,81,82,000 collected between September 14 and October 12, 2016
Rs 2,04,90,000 collected between October 13 and October 27, 2016
Rs 5,14,16,500 collected between November 1 and November 9, 2016
The IT Department report also states that permission for mining at a stone quarry, jointly owned by Minister Vijaya Baskar and one B Kubendran, was in violation of the mining norms. In the quarry’s submission to the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), it had been stated that the plan for mining rough stone would be carried out over 4.91 hectares. An environment clearance had also been granted for the operations. The approved depth for quarrying was 43 metres at a quantum of 2,95,642 cubic metres.
However, an aerial photogrammetric survey conducted by the Valuation Cell of the IT Department revealed in February 2017 that the actual depth of the quarry was 72 metres with a total of 22,76,306 cubic metres of rough stone and 2,75,562 cubic metres of a mixture of gravel and earth, totalling to 25,51,86 cubic metres.
The widespread allegations of corruption and bribing voters during the RK Nagar bye-elections, which was necessitated by the death of former Chief Minister and MLA J Jayalalithaa, resulted in the cancellation of the bye-polls in April 2017.
Documents unearthed following the raids on the properties of Health Minister Vijayabaskar had indicated that crores of rupees had been set aside for distributing to voters in the constituency.